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Album Review
Showroom of Compassion

Showroom of Compassion
by Cake

Upbeat Records

Review Date
26th January 2011
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

Cake came from the same school of knowingly awkward 90s alternative rock as Beck, Weezer, and Presidents of the United States of America. So what happened to all of these hipster-darling wunderkinds over the years? Beck has been lost in space for years, flying between planet hip-hop and planet folk singer in search of a balance between the two. Weezer stopped being truly relevant years ago and are drifting further away from critical acclaim and commercial success with every album. The Presidents, god bless them, are practically their own tribute band these days, resting on their not inconsiderable laurels. So what happened to Cake? Well, they are back after seven silent years with ‘Showroom of Compassion’ another album full of goofy funk and deadpan wisdom. In spite of the very long time between drinks, the album doesn’t sound over-thought, over-scrutinised, or over-produced. Hats go off to the band for keeping it simple and staying true to their off-the-cuff sound.

Things kick off on the right foot with ‘Federal Funding’, a witty riff on misplaced government spending that is right up Cake’s alley. Admittedly the “formula” afoot on this song (and the album as a whole) is am easily recognised one: clean guitar riffs, surf rock grooves, laconic vocals, and punchy ska horns fill out the majority of this record like a familiar pair of pants. A few tender moments do manage to pierce through the veil and mix things up as on’ Got To Move’ or the sweet, country tinged ‘Bound Away’. As with every album since the seminal ‘Fashion Nugget’ album, if you are here to find ‘The Distance 2’ then had better turn back now and dig out your old Triple J compilations. If you have your wits about you can spot a tasty number the equal of The Distance or Short Shirt Long Jacket. Case in point is the 70s blaxploitation vibe of ‘Moustache Man (Wasted)’, a tune worthy of being ranked among their biggest numbers of yesteryear. Will it ever receive the same acclaim? Unlikely but time will tell. The biggest surprise herein is ‘Teenage Pregnancy’ a waltzing instrumental that manages to be both dorky and dramatic.

Cake are a band with an established sound familiar to anyone who has taken the time to sit down with an album of theirs for any decent period of time, and they aren’t a band prone to wildly upsetting that notion. In spite of this they have always found ways to kick at their own boundaries to create interesting concoctions for the faithful to imbibe. It is evident that this is an album for Cake the band first and foremost, and if you’re along for the ride then you had better keep up or go home. After seven long years Cake are back; not in it for the acclaim, just for the good times to be had.

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