“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen your smiling face,” John McCrea sings on the second track of Cake’s latest album. The same can be said of Cake releases. Showroom of Compassion is the first album from Cake since 2007’s B-Sides and Rarities, and their first full-length studio album since 2004’s Pressure Chief. While certainly not absent from the music scene in all that time, Cake fans have had to be patient for this latest release. Produced by the band in their Sacramento studio and released on their own Upbeat Records label, this is the purest the band has ever been without big-studio interventions.
The single “Sick of You” is the most like vintage Cake: the growling stacatto of Xan McCurdy’s guitar; trumpets blaring; verses half-spoken and puncuated by the band shouting ends of lines off mic. While not the strongest track of the album, it makes sense as a first single.
Only lukewarm on “Sick of You?” There are plenty of great tracks to be had on this album. “Long Time” and “Moustache Man (Wasted)” are two stand-out tracks. Catchy beats and killer basslines with John’s off-beat lyrics keep these songs bouncing in your head long after listening. “Teenage Pregnancy” is a creeping instrumental track slightly reminiscent of Comfort Eagle’s “Arco Arena.” “Bound Away” shows the bands appreciation of classic country with this song about hitting the road.
They slow things down with “Got to Move,” “Easy to Crash,” and their cover of “What’s Now is Now,” originally composed for Frank Sinatra, but the tracks might slow the album down too much. Not all of their slower melodic songs missed the mark: the cold, beautiful lonlieness of “The Winter” won me over; and the closing track, “Italian Guy,” is a fitting conclusion. McCrea sings about a man having a heated discussion in his head, “Yeah he’s making a point, and it’s very important indeed.”
For those who worry about their carbon footprint might be happy to know the album was recorded entirley with solar power, packaged in a 100% recycled CD case printed with vegetable dyes and, for those who prefer their music digitally, the iTunes deluxe edition includes a bonus track (a quirky and slightly repetitive instrumental track called “Huge Misunderstanding”) and video for “Sick of You.”
Overall, Showroom of Compassion is a welcome return from the band. Hopefully with the extended break behind them, Cake will have enough material to come back sooner rather than later with their next album.
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