Cake: Showroom of Compassion

Cake: Showroom of Compassion
Remember when music used to be innocent? Like when Hanson released “MMMBop”, that was an innocent song. Around that same time Cake released “The Distance”, an innocent song about racing (I think). But now everything is so much more complicated. The littlest Hanson brother, Zac has two kids now and Cake is making starkly political music. Not that I’m offended by either of these events. Zac is 25; dude can have kids if he wants. But Cake’s turn in song writing is a little bit of a surprise.
For those of you that are thinking, “Cake? I thought they broke up” the truth is you are not alone. The band’s last released was a 2007 compilation of b-sides and rarities and their last formal studio album was 2004’s Pressure Chief. Because of the lengthy lay-off between albums, people have not gotten to witness Cake’s metamorphosis from fun loving rockabilly/rock/country/hiphop hybrid to political rockabilly/rock/country/hiphop hybrid but the change has occurred as is evident on the band’s sixth full length album, Showroom of Compassion.
The change is not subtle either; it kind of hits you in the face. The first track on the album is called “Federal Funding” and is an indictment of frivolous government spending with singer John McCrea singing “you’ll receive federal funding/you can add another winging/take your colleagues out to dinner/pay your brother to come and sing.” Musically, there is something very different about the song. The guitars have the same biting rockabilly feel as in the old days, but something is different about McCrea’s vocals. No he hasn’t gotten vocal training but “Federal Funding” is the first Cake song ever to include reverb on the vocals. McCrea has previously shunned the effect for its overuse but for some reason changed his tune for “Federal Funding.”
But the changes in tune on Showroom of Compassion are fairly minuscule. The album is perhaps more traditionally Cake than even their last album, Pressure Chief was. The only thing obviously missing from Showroom is a definitive single. “The Distance”, “Never There”, and “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” all defined a certain sound to a successful Cake single but a song of that style and caliber is noticeably missing on the album.
The truth is even without a traditional Cake single, Showroom of Compassion is still a pretty great album. There is no obviously weak songs on the album; there is a quality of excellence and perfection that is pervasive throughout the album. Although it does not strike me as Cake’s strongest album to date, it does obviously outrank Pressure Chief and probably gives Prolonging the Magic a run for its money as well.
Rating: 9.1/10
MP3: Cake “Federal Funding”
Buy: iTunes or Insound!

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