Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cake - Showroom of Compassion (2011)

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I'm going to be honest: The real reason I anticipated Showroom of Compassion was because of Cake claiming to be doing so using a solar powered studio and I wanted to see if it could be done. Not because of the 7 year period between album releases. My cursory knowledge of Cake comes from the use of their songs for TV show theme songs (instrumental versions of "Italian Leather Sofa" on Mission Hill and "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" on Chuck) and a few unfocused album listens. And yet, despite the fact that I couldn't really be a called a Cake fan, I was excited once I heard the album got its release date.

Showroom isn't a radical departure from anything you'd expect from Cake, and yet it adds enough new elements to keep itself from seeming stale and overdone. The use of brass is still prevalent though a bit more subtle in its usage. It mostly moves along at a groovy toe-tapping pace with the occasionally rhythmic curve ball thrown in like "Teenage Pregnancy" with its film score grandeur.

At a time where artists churn songs out that vary anywhere from 7-30 minutes, Showroom's rather short track times (never exceeding 5 minutes) is actually pretty refreshing: Long enough for you to enjoy it thoroughly, but short enough that it doesn't get old. One of the worst things that can happen when you wait a very long time for an album is that it simply doesn't deliver. I can't speak of the expectations of the die-hard Cake fans but with Showroom of Compassion, no part of it seems at all phoned in. Sure there's a surprising change of genre/sound with sauntering boom-chuck laden "Bound Away". And yet it keeps the album from sounding too similar (in addition to the piano parts in "The Winter" and strings in "Italian Guy"). I'm not sure how it stacks up against Cake's past albums, but to this listener the album is an excitingly good listen worthy of many repeat listens.

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