Friday, May 29, 2009

Grab A Slice Of CAKE This Summer

As today was the last day of school for me (holy crap, next year I'll be a SENIOR! Then after that I'll have to join the real world!), I figured I'd share one of my favorite summer albums. "Comfort Eagle" by CAKE is an awesome summer album. I bought it at the start of summer last year, and now it epitomizes everything that summer is: Warm, happy, carefree, fun, and lazy. Without further ado: Comfort Eagle is CAKE's fourth studio album. Released in 2001, it's spawned a few good singles, including the hit "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" that I think almost everyone has heard and that almost everyone should love. There are a number of excellent gems on this album, though, besides just the hit single, and I buying the full CD is well worth your money. One of CAKE's better releases, almost every song is catchy and features super-awesome lyrics full of metaphors and wordplay, courtesy of CAKE frontman John McCrea. McCrea's velvety voice shines through on all the tracks (except the instrumental "Arco Arena" of course) and I think the vocal performance is what endears me to CAKE the most (excellent lyrics and awesome bass lines are also big selling points). Whether McCrea is actually singing or sort of rapping/vocalizing makes no difference; he is talented enough to make even rap sound good.

The album opens with "Opera Singer". This is a good fun-in-the-sun summer song with pounding drum machine and sweet meandering guitar lines funky trumpet. There's nothing really special about the song, but it's fun nonetheless.

"Meanwhile, Rick James..." is the second track and is a melancholy song drowning in confusing metaphors and symbolisms. What the heck does "Fawn, Joe, and Tootsie are out on a wire/Lettuce-toothed junkies are full of desire" mean anyway? Not a big Rick James fan myself, I don't know any of his back story, but John McCrea claims to have written this song before ol' Ricky went crazy and became a druggie kidnapper and rapist. He seems to have predicted Ricky's future, then, because it mentions his drug addictions ("Swim in your kidney, kidney shaped pool/Scratching at the bottom for another clue") and his controversies with women pretty accurately.

"Shadow Stabbing" is an awesome song that embodies summer. It's light and bouncy but not quite "poppy". The funky guitar at the beginning is my favorite part, although the melody is pretty freakin' awesome too.

"Short Skirt/Long Jacket" is possibly CAKE's biggest hit, with contenders in "Rock 'N' Roll Lifestyle" and "The Distance". There's a good reason why it's a hit, though: Because it's freaking amazing. Full of wordplay and lists of absurd qualities that McCrea wants in his girl, this one is an instant classic. Great bass, nice overdriven guitar, and sweet trumpet make the music awesome; McCrea's awesome lyrics and light rap make the vocals amazing. My favorite lines are "I want a girl with uninterrupted prosperity/Who uses a machete to cut the red tape/With fingernails that shine like justice/and a voice that is dark like tinted glass". Those lyrics are just so ridiculously hilarious that they get me every time. What the heck does justice look like? What does tinted glass sound like? And I can totally see this ideal girl hacking her way through rules and regulations without a care in the world, as if she was taking a machete to them. It's awesome.

The next few songs are pretty good. "Commissioning a Symphony in C" is pretty fun (funny thing is, it's not really in the key of C. The chorus is in C, but the verses and bridge modulate to F) but nothing special, and the instrumental "Arco Arena" is actually kind of boring, although it makes for some nice filler.

"Comfort Eagle" is a hard-rock Indian-influences song that's pretty sweet. The lyrics are lashing out against the music industry and comparing it to some trashy cheap religion that gives out trinkets in exchange for loyalty. It's pretty cool, and it's fun to sing along with the "Calling you DUDE!" parts.

The last four songs are all really nicely-built songs full of good lyrics. "Love You Madly" especially is a good song about wanting to love a girl without all the crap that comes with relationships like unreasonable commitments and commercialism-laced holidays. Other than that, none of the other songs are tremendously note-worthy.

Most of the songs on the album are just part of the wash and they're not specifically stand-out songs, but the particular "wash" of the Comfort Eagle album is set at a surprisingly high standard. None of the songs are weak, but few of them are particularly strong singles-worthy songs. CAKE is not about being amazing rockin' musicians that kick butt and take names every time they pick up their instruments, CAKE is about making good music and having fun. CAKE is the ultimate lounge band, and they show it. This is not music to perform covers of at a rock concert (with the exception of "Short Skirt/Long Jacket"), but it's excellent music to listen to when you're just hanging out or driving down the road. I don't know what qualities make a good "summer album" but this one had that label jump into my head from the first time I listened to it, and to me it feels like it fits that label perfectly.