Wednesday, January 12, 2011

First Listen: Cake, Showroom of Compassion

Showroom of Compassion is arguably 2011's first major new release. It's taken seven years for the band to put it together, and frontman John McCrea promised it would sound very different.

McCrea is a filthy liar.

This album sounds like Cake. If you liked Cake before, with their stinging guitars and chiming horns and McCrea's low-key voice, you will like this. The tempos are slower across the board - "Federal Funding" may be the most laconic opener in the band's history - but the sound is essentially untouched.

There is one standout, and that's "The Winter," which features acoustic piano for the first time on a Cake album. This is one of the finest songs McCrea and company have written, and its mournful singalong will stay with you. But it's the one moment of real evolution on an album that otherwise sounds stuck in the past. I like Cake, and I like this record about as much as any of their others, but there are no new vistas explored here, and I can't fathom why it took so long to complete.

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