Cake - Showroom of Compassion
Record Label: Upbeat Records
Release Date: Jan. 11, 2011
A word of advice dear music listener, when life hands you lemons, listen to John McCrea. The Californian crooner and his pack of misfits, known formally as Cake, have been perfecting the art of lo-fi, no-frills, horn-fueled frat-rock for more than a decade. The band’s deep discography includes perennial favorites Fashion Nugget, which dropped in 1996, and 2001’s Comfort Eagle.
The group’s latest Showroom of Compassion continues their penchant for clever wordplay, nuanced songwriting and a whimsical spirit that’s as bright as the California sun. That being written, Showroom of Compassion, is an amiable disc, even somewhat pleasant, but entirely too much of the effort feels tepid, ho-hum and downright uninspired. Whether its the laconic pacing, the effusive amounts of languor or just a lack of sonic intensity, Showroom of Compassion is one big lemon.
Sociopolitical album opener “Federal Funding,” starts things off sluggishly as McCrea ruminates over government spending while stale guitars attempt to swim their way through a downright drab cadence. It isn’t until the song’s final 90 seconds, when inspired horns start teetering and tooting, that “Federal Funding,” sounds anything close to memorable. Should-be single “Long Time,” succeeds the lukewarm opener and has the kind of timelessness Cake has worn well for years. But unfortunately redundancy and lack of originality plague it from the first chorus to the last.
That’s not to say it’s a bad song, far from it, indeed it’s actually one of the disc’s brighter points‚ but all things considered, anyone that has admired Cake for years, knows the band is far better than this. “Got to Move,” is a lazy, languorous affair that moves along in a fashion eerily similar to Phil Collins’ “Groovy Kind of Love.” While Collins made the song a hit, one can’t really see “Got to Move,” making its way to airwaves. And yet, despite this, somehow, someway, the song manages to make an indelible impression, even if it does sound a bit like Collins redux.
Completely ignorant of the fact that the disc has yet to have a real stunner, McCrea and boys offer up “What’s Now is Now,” arguably the album’s weakest effort. Quite honestly, can the band really stand proudly behind a song like this, nearly two decades into their career? “Mustache Man (Wasted),” is the album’s first real attempt at kinesis and the first track that revisits the halcyon days of Cake circa 2001. Inspired horns and McCrea’s punchy vocals help make the track one of the disc’s few triumphs.
The Cali quartet takes a breather on the hallucinatory albeit misplaced instrumental “Teenage Pregnancy,” concluding a first half that is anything but sterling. As if to atone for said mistakes, the quartet puts their best foot forward with lead single “Sick of You.” Effervescent, vibrant and 100 percent original, “Sick of You,” is the kind of track the disc’s first half needed more of. But few highs are ever followed in succession and aside from a reggae breakdown in the song’s middle half, “Easy to Crash.” is sleepy, boring and downright disappointing. At this point, Cake are truly in need of a miracle. And so it goes. The acoustic, whimsical “Bound Away,” goes after Mexicali country and does so surprisingly well. Is that a pulse? A heartbeat? Is Cake ready to turn it around?
Truth be told, the song is such a triumph one can make the argument the song should have been placed earlier in the track listing. And as if it were divine intervention itself, the album reaches its apex on the piano-laden “The Winter,” a narrative yarn about self-defeat and a love gone sour. And yet even in its winning moments, one can’t help but think, “Is this really the best Cake has to offer?” One would hope that with an album so horribly disappointing, McCrea and co. might have something tremendous to offer as a conclusion. While “Italian Guy,” is definitely a winner, whether or not its the salvation Showroom of Compassion needed is up for debate.
What’s most troubling about the disc is that for the first time in their career, McCrea and Co. sound downright bored. Has nearly two decades of making music caught up with them? Has the band lost their cohesiveness? The answers of course are as foggy and gray as a San Francisco summer. Either way, when the final chapter closes on the story of Cake, one can’t help but think Showroom of Compassion will not even get a page’s worth of attention.
Frat rock is DMB, Kings of Leon and almost any nu metal band that ever came out. Sublime is WAYYYY far from Frat Rock.
When was the last time you were in a frat? Every room is splattered with two posters: the Sublime s/t cover and that John Belushi poster where he's wearing the shirt that says "college". They may not be "frat rock" per se, but I sure don't know anybody who likes them who isn't a piece of shit in a fraternity.
You made it sound like this was a horrible album. I thoroughly enjoyed it, while all you really did was blow up a few faults and turn them into these monstrous problems. It's no Fashion Nugget or Comfort Eagle, but I don't think it's nearly as bad as you make it out to be. Especially when you gave it a 76%
really? haha really. this site fuckin gives out good reviews to every single band/album no matter how mediocre each band/album is....and THIS! is the one that gets a bad review. One of the few unique bands out there, that I love to admit fits into no genre and sounds like no other band, gets the "honest review". Listen if the reviewer found the album to be boring that's fine...but man if that same brush of truth and flexiblity isn't applied on other albums!
i dont know man, something's wrong here. This sounds like a cake album.....i dont know what else to say.
edit: to be fair, i'm not singling out this reviewer as I'm aware that this guy doesn't give good reviews to like REady Set..and shit on this album. it was more of a generalization of the kind of reviews that this site does.