Cake – “Showroom of Compassion”

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

After 7 years, Cake has finally graced the world with their presence yet again. Released January 11, 2011, Cake’s new album, “Showroom of Compassion” combines new with the old. This album, if anything, revives your sense of what made Cake a band to begin with.

“Showroom of Compassion” does not depart from Cake’s integrated guitar with drum, nor does it abandon rising trumpets, it does not dump talk-singing, and it especially does not withhold the unique lyrics.

The band’s trumpet, keyboard, and percussion player, Vince DiFiore says, “Of the greatest importance is a band that has strong individualism, plus a strong recognition of the need to cooperate.”
Cake has lived up to its distinctive “individualism” from their first album, “Motorcade of Generosity” (1994), all the way to their latest.

John McCrea, Cake’s lead vocalist and songwriter, talks with SoundSpike about what exactly was diverse about this album.

McCrea states, “There are things that I just sort of intentionally avoided for years and years that I allowed to happen. Like the use of acoustic piano. I felt it sounded too classy and I didn’t want us to sound classy. But now I feel like maybe it’s OK. It’s a junky old piano that we dragged in the studio. I think it sounds OK. I’d always studiously avoided using reverb on the vocals, and I allowed that to happen for some reason. I don’t know why. When the band was first starting, people were overusing reverb. I said, ‘I don’t want to use it.’ I thought it was a cheap way to sound grandiose.”

Therefore we now have a “classier,” more “grandiose” Cake who’s “doing what America wants” according to John McCrea in an interview with MTV.

Not to say that supporters of Cake will be let down by the changes. They will hear the band’s signature sounds that include experimental tunes, giving their fans a new beat to dance to.

Their most recent single “Sick of You” has given Cake a strong comeback, may it be for the catchy hook created by John McCrea or for the meaning behind it.

“It’s about how when you hate things, the circle of hate starts rather broadly,” in which John McCrea explains to SoundSpike. “You hate the President or a big movie star, someone you’ll probably never meet. Gradually though, the circle tightens and the objects of hate get closer and closer to the hater. Now it’s your uncle or your mother, now it’s your close friend, and finally it’s you.”

“Sick of You” isn’t the only catchy song on their latest work, “Mustache Man (Wasted)” begins strong and just makes you want to move to the traditional blazing trumpets as McCrea and band sings “I have wasted so much time.”

“Easy to Crash” gives you a taste of the old Cake as well. Combined with a heavy bass line and a hint of sound effects posted to classic videogames.

“Bound Away” brings listeners back to their Willy Nelson cover of “Sad Songs and Waltzes” from their album Fashion Nugget, as it carries just that; a sad song and waltz.

The complete instrumental song, “Teenage Pregnancy,” grasps the new classy piano sound McCrea had been shunning.

“Showroom of Compassion” was furnished with “What’s Now is Now,” with McCrea singing a love melody along with synth, string, and chirping birds. Of course a painted image of love and buzzing birds goes hand in hand with their new solar powered studio in California. “We’re making our own electricity to produce our own music and videos, and no one can stop us…!” jokes McCrea.

Gabriel Nelson, the bass guitarist thinks that “…this album is the most collaborative album.” Affirming that it does hold the new and the old, the low-key and the upbeat, once again sustaining that what they do will always embrace who they are.