Cake shows mature side with ‘Showroom’

GRAPHIC COURTESY OF UPBEAT RECORDS

By Matthew Gomez
The Guardsman

Cake’s latest album, “Showroom for Compassion,” is worth buying — like legally. As in going to Amoeba and buying it new, still in the shrink wrap, with money.

Those who download the album from iTunes do get a bonus track, but the point is, this album is quality listening material.

Some bands age like wine and some age like milk, but Cake always sounds like Cake. They never seem to change their sound, yet always manage to sound original. Their music is like the ice cream man’s jingle: there’s no doubt who it is.

“Showroom for Compassion,” which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 charts, is the Sacramento-based band’s mellowest album to date.

None of the songs have the energy of their hits like “Short Skirt, Long Jacket,” and there is a saddening lack of trumpet. While these changes don’t necessarily detract from the album, they are definitely noticeable to die-hard fans.

The Moog synthesizer still plays a key role in the album, but overall Cake has grown up a bit. Their music from a decade ago, while formally categorized under alternative rock, distilled elements of ska, pop and rockabilly. But all that has evaporated from their sound.

The intro track “Federal Funding” is a nice warm-up for what’s to come — 40 minutes of steady flowing music that is as satisfying as a Hostess cupcake. John McCrea’s tongue-in-cheek humor is present in the intro when he sings “You’ll receive the federal funding/You can add another wing/Take your colleagues out to dinner/Pay your brother to come and sing.”

The highlights of “Showroom for Compassion” include “What’s Now Is Now,” which, with the Moog, sounds like incredibly good elevator music and “Long Time,” a sure dance hit for their upcoming tour.

That’s right! Cake will be playing four shows at the Fillmore Feb. 14-17 as part of their “An Evening with Cake: Showroom of Compassion World Tour”. Get tickets now, because their first and last shows have already sold out.

Always on the fringes of the music scene, Cake has never seen mainstream success comparable to other 90s bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead. Their biggest claim to fame possibly came in 1999, when Cake’s single “Never There” reached 78 on the Billboard Hot 200 songs.

But nowadays, with a patient fan base that has waited for them to resume touring, Cake has reached status of a band that transcends its own era.

Cake has definitely gone the distance with this album, and perhaps more people will take notice of a band that has always deserved the spotlight.