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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 01/11/2011

Album review: Cake, "Showroom of Compassion"

By Patrick Foster

cakeWho doesn't like Cake? (Robert Knight)

The music starts and is instantly recognizable: A dry, twangy guitar floats over a rhythm section informed by funk; a trumpet weaves in and out; a squiggly keyboard chases the singer's sly, deadpan intonations. It's Cake, duh. And though it's been six years since the Sacramento troupe has cut a studio disc, "Showroom of Compassion" feels instantly friendly.

Leader John McCrea has been dropping hints to longtime fans (Cake lovers are a particularly dedicated bunch) that this album would be a departure, complete with ballads and (horrors!) reverb. Those statements are confirmed, but only relatively, since Cake-world is a quirky place. "Mustache Man (Wasted)," "Easy to Crash" and "Federal Funding" are herky-jerky groovers that slot into the mold of Cake classics such as "The Distance" and "Short Skirt, Long Jacket."

But there is depth, maturity, reflection and reverb (again, relative) on "Teenage Pregnancy" (a piano-driven instrumental), "Got to Move" (with a rousing crescendo) and "Italian Guy," which turns on a pulsing, McCartney-esque string arrangement. And McCrea's penchant for off-kilter country is well known to fans, but the new "Bound Away" is a wonderful manifestation, a travelin' song done up with waltzy trimmings, pedal steel accents and mariachi-like horns flourishes.

Will this highly listenable, 11-track collection do anything to change Cake from a cult band with a devoted audience to wise sages of idiosyncratic rock worthy of widespread attention and hosannas from the blogosphere? Nope. Would you, Cake fan, want it any other way? Didn't think so.

Recommended tracks: "Mustache Man (Wasted)," "Bound Away," "Italian Guy"

By Patrick Foster  | January 11, 2011; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags:  Cake  
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Next: Album review: "The Grascals & Friends: Country Classics With a Bluegrass Spin"

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