That classic Cake sound has finally returned to us after a six year stretch between albums. The band’s latest endeavor, titled Showroom of Compassion, is a welcome addition to the long running family of music as it catches them doing what they do best; running a bass and horn groove under dry vocal delivery. And yet, while we hear a good deal of Cake’s patented Lo-Fi production and familiar writing through the album, there are also new elements that show the Sacramento sons haven’t just been spending their time off under the proverbial rock.
The first standout track, “Long Time” comes second in the lineup and has everything we’ve come to expect from a Cake single. The vocal harmonies come in droves under lead singer/vibra-slap guru John McCrea’s usual seemingly disinterested delivery, and the track is driven by a strong bass groove that bounds along. The ever present horns show up to add flavor as usual to this hook filled, verse centered song. A clear chorus never quite presents itself in my opinion, not that its needed, but that might explain why a solid tune like “Long Time” wasn’t the first choice for the album’s debut single.
That honor went to track #7, “Sick Of You”, a laid back attention grabber that sucks you in with its pseudo-twang distorted lead guitar riffs bouncing through the meat of the song. Latin flavors from the horns surrounding the chorus and spoken style vocals through the bridge make the track hit all the major criteria for becoming a successful Cake single. Another great listen is #5, “Mustache Man (Wasted)”. This sexy, swag stuffed number definitely brings an early 70’s groove rock feel to the table, leading me to the conclusion that like their edible namesake, there’s really no such thing as “bad Cake”.
Some of the experiments you’ll encounter in your listen of Showroom of Compassion are the dusty country waltz, #9 “Bound Away” that throws splashes of slide guitar in with the usual instrumental players as the vocals actually attempt some comparatively range stretching melodies and make them float over the chorus. “Teenage Pregnancy”, track #6, is an unexpected instrumental that opens with a dark piano then ebbs and flows into buildups of driving bass and drums couples with a deliberately strong horn progression then drops back down to a synth led verse multiple times.
Cake kept their classic art style we’ve come to expect, the groovy/original feel that most Cake purists would demand and managed these feats all while introducing a few new touches. All in all, it’s a consistent effort; a good album by a damn good band. Sure the music market has changed significantly in the past 6 years since they’ve released an album, but the beauty of a band that delivers uniqueness in massive quantities of incredible quality is that there will always be room for Cake.
Review written by: Eric Dexter