Tuesday, August 22, 2017

CD Odyssey Disc 1044: Cake

Life has been hectic of late, and I’m a bit knackered as a result. I’m going to try to get this review written on what reserves of energy I’ve got left and then hit the sack.

Disc 1044 is…Comfort Eagle
Artist: Cake

Year of Release: 2001

What’s up with the Cover? Another typical Cake cover, consisting of a background the colour you paint all the rooms in your house right before you decide to sell it.

There is also a graphic of a lovely early sixties couple enjoying a cocktail. These two look smashed. I imagine that he’s about to confess that he lost the Jaguar in a late night card game and she’s working up the courage to tell him she’s been sleeping with the pool boy.

How I Came To Know It: I was already a Cake fan when this album came out so this was just me buying their latest release.

How It Stacks Up:  I have seven Cake albums, which at this point is all of them. Of the seven, “Comfort Eagle” is my favourite – so #1, baby!

Ratings: 4 stars

“Comfort Eagle” is one of those great albums that I played a bit too much when it came out. Despite all that overplay, I still enjoyed every minute of it when the Odyssey deemed it was time to return.

Cake is one of those bands that have created their own unique sound. They channel sixties lounge, seventies funk, eighties synth and a bit of modern indie detachment. The combination is a mix of heavy groove and catchy beats that gets your head bobbing and your toe tapping.

“Comfort Eagle” is the band’s fourth album and is more of the same formula, but with a bit more polish. The production values are superior, and the arrangements are inspired. These guys just seem to know when the bass should lay down a riff, when the horn section should fire a blast and when to calm it all down and let lead vocalist and writer John McCrea deliver a few lines with the perfect phrasing and timing of a beatnik poet.

Thematically the songs are a mix of idle observations and impressionistic character studies. The opening song, “Opera Singer” is the story of an opera singer; temperamental, difficult but brilliantly talented. On “Pretty Pink Ribbon” you get the sense of a spoiled girl, navigating through life on her looks. Neither character is particularly likable but they’re so well drawn you can’t help but want to know them better.

The album’s best song is also the band’s most famous. “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” is part character study and part wishlist of what the perfect girlfriend might be like. The song always reminds me of my own girl, particularly the line:

“I want a girl with a mind like a diamond
And eyes that burn like cigarettes.”

That latter part is only when I’ve said something stupid, of course.

The whole record has a rolling incessant energy that makes you want to be behind the wheel of a car, driving slightly too fast. On the surface, songs like “Comfort Eagle” make you want to get somewhere in a hurry, without overthinking about where exactly you’re going. Just drive. Yet for all this urgency and celebratory hand-clapping (which many of the songs feature) there is a subversive quality to the lyrics, exposing the emptiness of modern culture even as they showcase their allure with a catchy beat.

Songs like the title track make you want to sing along when the man in the music business calls you ‘dude!’ even as you also recognize he doesn’t have your best interests at heart. Also, for songs that are so good for driving, Cake once again delivers a solid anti-traffic song with “Long Line of Cars”. As the song admonishes, “This long line of cars…is all because of you.” If you’re wondering who caused the traffic jam take a look in the rearview mirror and see your reflection looking back at you.

Like a lot of great music, “Comfort Eagle” can be appreciated on multiple levels. You could just bob your head and enjoy the beat, or you could consider the deeper message Cake is delivering about the dangers of ego and self-absorption at both the personal and the societal level. It is best enjoyed when both experiences impact you at the same time.

I enjoy this album every time I put it on. I may have been guilty of playing it too much when I first bought it, but with music this good, it was a victimless crime.

Best tracks: Meanwhile Rick James…, Short Skirt/Long Jacket, Commissioning a Symphony in C, Comfort Eagle, Long Line of Cars, Love You Madly

No comments: