Comfort Eagle follows Cake's successful formula
By JOE LARSON
Scene Music Critic
Cake was first recognized for their heavy, guitar-riff driven single, "The Distance" off their 1996 release Fashion Nugget. The album, chock full of ascending bass lines and heavily distorted lead guitar riffs, gained the band a loyal underground following on college radio and catapulted them into alternative rock's answer to Herman's Hermits.
The band's sound, fusing sarcastically sophisticated lyrics with an acoustic guitar background, thumping bass lines, searingly distorted lead guitar and an occasional horn blast, is all its own. Fashion Nugget also boasted an infectious cover of Gloria Gaynor's disco smash, "I Will Survive."
Nugget's follow up, Prolonging the Magic, brought more of the same poppy punk/folk, cruising on the success of tunes like the lovelorn anthem, "Never There" and the quirky "Sheep Go To Heaven, Goats Go to Hell."
Cake made a name for themselves with humorous and sometimes self-deprecating songs commenting on everything from Hollywood glitz to being dissed by old lovers. On their latest release, Comfort Eagle, Cake maintain the same formula. Lead singer John McRea maintains his sarcastic views of everything and the band still lays down the funky rock 'n' roll to back it up.
The album does not really break any new ground for Cake, but the band's original outlook and sound still allow it to blossom. The first single, "Short Skirt/Long Jacket," mixes the same old catchy guitar riff and bass line with McRea's list of what kind of girl he wants: "I want a girl with eyes that burn like cigarettes/ Who uses a machete to cut through red tape."
Coupled by it's video, which puts a camera crew out filming people's reactions to the song, the song is sure to fall into the band's string of recognizable, but not quite overwhelmingly popular songs. The highlight is the background chanting that is reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Other highlights on the album are the punk driven "Commissioning a Symphony in C" and "Opera Singer," which tells the story of — guess what — an opera singer's daily life. Cake's instrumental track "Arco Arena," begins to sound almost like an old Def Lepard song but then turns into something that would be coupled with an offbeat detective movie.
The hard-driven title track boasts the band's hatred for the people they meet in the music business: "He is handling the money/ He is serving the food/ He knows about your party/ He is calling you, Dude!" This song attacks the business that, because of trends and an all-around lack of rock music, has kept the band in moderate obscurity with only college radio to thank for any of their success.
Their complaining is not unwarranted. Though Cake is not really maturing or experimenting on their latest work, they are compiling honest, good music. They do not really have to mature or experiment with their style, because their sound is already mature and definitely different from any of the other bands out there. They found the formula for successfully fusing funk, punk, and even some country twang — and it works. There is no great need for them to change since their music really is completely original from everything else being released.
Probably the best song on Comfort Eagle is the extremely catchy "Love You Madly." It's a simple song that bounces through the verses and into the chorus shouting for what rock 'n' roll songs are supposed to shout about, the singer's desire for love. Cake hits full force on this song with their signature bridge, coupling the bass and guitar with a trumpet solo from Vince Diofore.
All in all, Comfort Eagle is a completely satisfying rock album. It rocks. It croons. And it will stick in your head. Though Cake covers no new ground here, the album will still keep the listener interested. As they've shown before, Cake's patented formula makes for a great bunch of songs, but one can't help but wonder how long the formula will last without getting too redundant.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, September 11, 2001