I was very grateful to receive four albums at Christmas all by the same band – Cake. I was aware of this band but never gave them my full attention before. They’re now stuck on repeat and quickly becoming a part of my life as they fill in the moments in between. Francesca introduced me to them last year as we were visiting her family in Sardinia. They are the perfect soundtrack to ride to as you beach-hop around on a Vespa.
Despite not touring much in the UK, the Californian quintet have been around for almost 20 years now, producing their own albums. In the UK they haven’t had the same sort of recognition they have had back home despite gaining syncs on British ads. The thing with Cake is that they have a formula that really works. Their music is listenable and the songs keep your attention because of the inventive mix of chords, melody and interesting lyrics.
I do want to draw more focus to the lyrics. They’re both humorous and thought provoking. This is an intelligent way to put across a message in a song and you find you can listen to this band whether you are feeling pissed off or high on life. The thing with their lyrics is that they break the rules. John McCrea steers away from the obvious rhyme unexpectedly and replaces it with a Dylan-esque twist. Then he will serve up the most obvious rhyme when you are least expecting. It’s like he gives you the dessert you didn’t ask for and it always tastes nicer and more fresh than your original choice.
Sometimes a writer’s lyrics give a band it’s identity. Certain words and phrases that you notice song-writers like to use make you feel that they have a deeper meaning than merely just singing a collection of random syllables thrown together. Language – the sound of words used in the most effective sequence when re-arranged. Repetition – knowing the best time to use it when it will enhance and put emphasis on the line. Addition/subtraction – it’s not mathematics but make sure a good idea is used sparingly or only when it holds substance. However, a true artist must also have the ability to strip layers away if they are not relevant to the mood. Sacrifice – sometimes the best idea is not to use all your ideas because they must all work together! If they don’t all work together the music becomes less.
In other words – keep it unpredictable and edgy then you can’t go far wrong. John’s vocal performance is great for the fact that it’s real! It doesn’t sound over produced and the way he delivers some of his lines putting extra little pauses and breaths between certain syllables gives you the impression he performs it differently every time. It’s as if it all depends on how he was feeling at that moment, still deciding how it would sound best or simply just having fun with it! Who knows…
The band. Everyone has their turn. The minor undertone provided in most songs by the brass section fills the sound with substance and they speak to you when you had forgotten they were still in the room. The lead guitar is a signature sound; with parts that send you off balance whilst making you feel like you are listening in a much warmer place. That’s what I love in music most. Escape. That power music has of taking people away from their daily lives for a time. This is one of those bands that any listener longs to run away and join.
Spotify + Cake = your life will be better