While artists like Beck and Radiohead see every new album as an opportunity for reinvention from the ground up, Cake has no such hang-ups. From the uniformly rustic cover art, the jerky rhythms and wobbly trumpet solos, ea... more »ch of Sacramento band's albums is reassuringly interchangeable. But on its fifth, the group's most distinguishing characteristic--John McCrea's deadpan, detached vocals--seems to have been given a makeover. On songs such as "No Phone" and "Tougher Than It Is" for the first time the singer seems, well, like he's actually trying to sing. It's nothing dramatic--the music will still sound immediately familiar to those who even in passing have heard hits such as "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and "The Distance"--but with certain bands a little goes a long way. --Aidin Vaziri« less
While artists like Beck and Radiohead see every new album as an opportunity for reinvention from the ground up, Cake has no such hang-ups. From the uniformly rustic cover art, the jerky rhythms and wobbly trumpet solos, each of Sacramento band's albums is reassuringly interchangeable. But on its fifth, the group's most distinguishing characteristic--John McCrea's deadpan, detached vocals--seems to have been given a makeover. On songs such as "No Phone" and "Tougher Than It Is" for the first time the singer seems, well, like he's actually trying to sing. It's nothing dramatic--the music will still sound immediately familiar to those who even in passing have heard hits such as "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and "The Distance"--but with certain bands a little goes a long way. --Aidin Vaziri
"First off, I'd just like to point out that there's something deeply and unspeakably disturbing about a band named Cake covering a song by a band named Bread. Somewhere in France, most of Marie Antoinette must be spinning in her grave. And for those of you who weren't around when the first version came out, the Bread song on the album is The Guitar Man. But, I digress...
You know, it may just be me, but I have no idea what the people who say that this album sounds like the other four Cake albums are talking about. They must not be listening to the same CD that I am. The very first thing I noticed when I put this CD on in my car on the way to work was how different it sounded from what they've done before. For one thing, you're not going to find any country inspired music--unless you preordered it and got the bonus CD with Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town. The music on this CD has a much more urban sounds, with a lot more keyboard and synthesizer. The drums frequently sound as though they're coming from a drum machine, which I suppose they very well could be, given the band's recent turnover in the drumming department. All the same, dedicated Cake fans should immediately notice a difference.
This is not an album with a lot of solid radio tracks, so if you're looking for those, you probably ought to look elsewhere. Wheels and No Phone are both capable, and The Guitar Man has already been there and done that, but outside of those, there aren't really any standouts that will catch your ear the first time you hear them (except for The End of the Movie, and that's more because it has two fewer instruments involved than the rest of the album). While the album is terriffic, it is not swimming in memorable and catchy tunes--consider yourself warned.
Also, to all of the mothers and fathers out there considering buying this for their children, I will warn you know. The dreaded expletive does make a brief appearance on this CD, in the track Carbon Monoxide. Consider yourselves warned as well.
Aside from those concerns, this is still a wonderful album, and easily a step above the band's last effort, Comfort Eagle. I do have problems with the arrangement (I personally mixed the three tracks on Extra Value in with those on this album and moved The End of the Movie to the end of the CD--appropriately enough--to give the thing a real closer, which was a signature from Cake up until their last release), but those are easily remedied with a CD recorder and a little bit of ingenuity. On the whole, this is a different, more mature, less obtuse effort for Cake--the metaphors here aren't nearly as thickly obfuscated as those that you find on their previous efforts.
It may seem that I intend to be critical of the album. I do--there is room for improvement here. However, the things that I'm pointing out should be problematic for only the most dedicated and effective anal retentive personality. On the whole, this is a worthy purchase for any fan of music in general with a broad palette, and a must have for Cake fans. My only real wish is that it were longer--at under forty minutes, this isn't a lot of meat for having waited as long as we have for another record."
This one took some time to grow on me
Greg Brady | Capital City | 05/10/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I remember my initial reaction to this album was "Cake has finally made a bad album". While I no longer think of it as bad, it's definitely only average and one that takes longer to settle in than many of their other efforts.
Probably the biggest change here on this CD from COMFORT EAGLE is the prominence of synthesizers, especially on "Carbon Monoxide", the band's cover of 70s soft rock band Bread's "The Guitar Man", and the near theremin sounding synth on the sole hit from this album "No Phone". Others have mentioned singer John McCrea is trying to do more conventional singing on this album but I don't hear that much of a change from his typical talk/sing style (like an alternative Neil Diamond).
HIGHLIGHTS: "Wheels" probably SHOULD have been the single. It's upbeat, and its "Wheeeeels..keep on spinnin' round/spinnin' round/spinnin' round" chorus is almost immediately sing-a-long worthy. "No Phone" has a similarly catchy hook but the insistent moog tends to grate a bit with repeated airings. "Dime" is a clever lament from the point of view of the tiny tender, much like Schoolhouse Rock's "I'm Just a Bill (On Capitol Hill)". ("I'm silver-plated/I'm underrated/You won't even pick me up because I'm not enough for a local phone call")
LOWS: "She'll Hang the Baskets" is a return of more country tinged material from the band but it's not as compelling as past fare has been. "Carbon Monoxide" comes off like grating older B-52s (apt comparison whoever first made it)
BOTTOM LINE: If you had asked me the first week we had this album for my rating, I'd have said 1 1/2 stars. After some time to live with it, the tracks I initially disliked (mostly) have grown on me and I now give it 3 stars. It's still probably their weakest effort thus far but far from unlistenable. Longtime Cake fans will probably like it, but I'd check out the sound samples first. If you're new to Cake, don't start here..get FASHION NUGGET, then COMFORT EAGLE."
Good, but not great.
Nathaniel J. Harvey II | California | 12/11/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Let's be real here, folks. Good CD? Yes, definitely. Great? Ehh, you're pushin' it there. Let's be real here, this new face of Cake with the new synth layer, just isn't exactly the Cake of old. There are a couple of songs where the old Cake shines through with its funky but fresh bass lines, and a few of those good ol' shaky trumpet solos. In this CD, the vocalist keeps his nonchalant and sometimes monotone voice, yet he tries to mix it up and appears to actually try and sing in songs such as "No Phone." Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it's not what us long-time Cake fans were expecting from this new unveiling. Granted, I am only 17, but I still remember the first CD I ever received was Cake's Fashion Nugget. From then on I have kept up to date with every new single and CD. If you aren't a long time fan, take it from me, this is a good CD, but it doesn't have that certain shine that their others have had."
This Year's Model.
Jason Stein | San Diego, CA United States | 11/04/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"One could argue that Cake are one big inside joke. I mean look at how their five album covers are all the same artist and slightly different from one another. Listen to the music--in ten years the band has turned out five almost similiar albums. They're like a car that has small adjustments made from year to year to improve its quality while retaining that same dependable quality you've come to rely on.
However, this is the first album that feels tired and out of musical ideas. Yes, the lyrics are still interesting and amusing and even quite clever ("Dime"), but the melodies, compositions and arrangements vary little from one another or from their previous four albums. "Pressure Chief" is a short (under 40 minutes) unsatisfying snack. It feels as if Columbia record execs have sucked the band dry.
Nevertheless, there are some salvageable songs like "No Phone", "Dime", "The Guitar Man", "End Of The Movie", "Palm Of Your Hand" and "Tougher Than It Is". But, you know, I made my own compilation of songs I like from each album onto one disc and it all sounded the same! I think Cake need a shot of musical inspiration at this point, or are they planning to release five more albums over the next ten years of the same thing? I'd hate to see them turn out like Chicago, Journey, REO Speedwagon or Styx did. These guys are my favorite band from Sacramento besides Bourgeois Tagg (who?).
If you're a Cake fan, I'm sure you already own this, but to casual fans you might was to try "Comfort Eagle", "Prolonging The Magic" or "Fashion Nugget" to start--or better yet, wait for a best of Cake!"
Say it ain't so...
Nick Fan | Canada | 11/14/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I must be an old school Cake fan, and time stands still for me; but I thought I would never see the day where the band would change to the point I wouldn't buy, listen and assimilate the new record.
I bought the record, popped it in and didn't listen to it for a month after the first. I returned to the record thinking, "what could be different this time around?" No precussion and no Trumpet, the backbone of the band, I guess. Because after the second time I listened to it, I noticed it more than anything else. I am crushed, but I will get over it, just don't ask me today, or tomorrow.... "