Under Review: Cake – Showroom Of Compassion

Well, it’s a brand new year for music and it seems like I’ve wasted little time in underestimating an album’s merits after only the first listen. When you read that a band is releasing its first album in seven years, you unavoidably begin stacking up your expectations long before the release date. But when the band in question is Cake, a group that has thrived on variations on its own quirky theme since 1994, there’s often little room to guess. The thing about Cake is that they have sounded like a satirical band since their inception, making their slip into self-parody inevitable. There’s no doubt that Showroom Of Compassion sounds like a Cake album, though it never becomes more than just a fair one.

Cake’s output is proof that a song can be written about anything (or, indeed, nothing) at all. Showroom Of Compassion follows that exercise from its opening number, “Federal Funding,” an apparent ode to a museum expansion reception. All the parts of Cake songs are in the new set: scratchy rhythm guitar, tuneful trumpet, John McCrea’s vocal punctuations. Despite these indications, Showroom Of Compassion doesn’t boast many memorable moments. Sure, the ballady “Got To Move” features an impressive twisting refrain, and “Bound Away” is essentially a rewrite of Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs And Waltzes,” (covered as the last track on Fashion Nugget) but little sticks once the next track begins. Like Cake’s other lukewarm albums, Showroom Of Compassion features a dynamite single in “Sick Of You,” one of the album’s most impressive inclusions. There’s also “Teenage Pregnancy,” a pretty great instrumental.

Surprisingly, the best songs on Showroom Of Compassion are the ones that sound the least like classic Cake. Closer “Italian Guy,” in particular, features an uncommonly delicate baroque arrangement. Had Cake mixed up their sound like this a little bit more, Showroom Of Compassion would have been a more compelling (and less predictable) listen.

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~ by E. on January 10, 2011.

One Response to “Under Review: Cake – Showroom Of Compassion”

  1. How long until the vibroslap makes its first appearance?

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