Cake – Showroom of Compassion (Music Review)

Showroom of Compassion cover

Cake - Showroom of Compassion

“I’m so sick of you, so sick of me, I don’t want to be with you”, sings John McCrea on “Sick Of You”. Is this a breakup song, or a complaint about his band? If the latter, that would certainly explain the bored, forgettable performance on a song that should at least be charged with some disdainful energy. If you’re wondering how this ended up being the first single off Cake’s new album, the answer is equally disappointing: Showroom of Compassion doesn’t have anything better to offer.

 

Cake’s repertoire has always been marked by energy, experimentation, and the occasional burst of vitriol. This album may still provide the brass instrumentation and McCrea’s signature flat voice, but it no longer feels like a punk masterpiece filtered through a ska-meets-beat-poetry scene. Showroom is at least an improvement over Pressure Chief, their last (7 years past!) effort. But even though this album drops the embarrassing attempts to fit a formula that should be defined by constant change, it doesn’t offer up anything new, either. These songs would universally fit in as filler tracks on on of their other albums.

There is nothing wrong with Cake filler tracks. On other albums, they provided a sort of reassuring charm, painting a picture of a band that was happy with everything they were doing and didn’t see the need to strive for crowd-pleasing hits every moment. However, devoid of these hits, the filler is unavoidably disappointing.

There are hints of a band still looking for ways to evolve. “Federal Funding” offers a glimpse into the sorts of songs a “grown-up” Cake could write two decades after their formation: The low-key lyrics announce “you’ll receive the federal funding, you can add another wing” without a hint of irony, allowing its disgust at this mundane world to come through only as subtext. The song may not be radio-friendly, but it gives us a vision of a band that could evolve to be dangerous and challenging to fans who are now over 30. None of the other songs follow up on this promise, though.

After the disastrous Pressure Chief, this album is vaguely reassuring. It’s still not good, but at least they have reversed their downward slide. Now that they can handle the solid, secondary Cake songs, they only need to come up with a couple standout tracks to create a great album. If they manage this, though, it won’t be until the next try.

Grade: C

 

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