Showroom of Compassion

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9.00
Cake are back with their first album since 2004's Pressure Chief and its pleasing to hear that they've still held onto those classic Cake ingredients: twanging guitar hooks, some background chanting, a healthy dose of brass, a bit of funky bass, a pinch of minimalist keyboard and of a massive wad of vibraslap. You also get a whole bag of new ingredients on this album though, it sees their first use of acoustic piano (John McCrea had previously avoided it - "I didn't want us to sound classy") and there's an undercurrent of Mariachi which is used to particularly brilliant effect on "Bound Away" and "Italian Guy", two of this album's most enjoyable tracks. The former is a composition which could easily hold its own against Willie Nelson's "Sad Songs and Waltzes" in Cake's live set, the latter is like The Beatles at their most absurd and, to top things off, has one of McCrea's most amusingly dry lyrics of any song in their bustling catalogue. As you would probably expect the album comes with many great lines and Cake are at their satirical biting best on opener "Federal funding" ('You receive the federal funding, you can add another wing/Take your colleagues out to dinner, pay your brother to come and sing'), this band certainly know how to kick off an album and Showroom Of Compassion is no exception. There's much more to the record than the lyrical content though and if this is what Cake can muster in seven years of writing and recording then I'd happily wait another seven for the next one. "Sick Of You" is as catchy as "Short Skirt Long Jacket" whilst at the same time sounding completely different, "Teenage Pregnancy" sees a creepy first use of that live piano sound, "Got To Move" sounds like a cover version of a classic (but isn't) and "Mustache Man" is in the running for Cake's best ever song title (it's a good tune too and unquestionably the funkiest of the album). Nine times out of ten, when a band dedicates such a long period of time to make an album the finished article will be over-thought, over-produced or noticeably laboured (see The Stone Roses' Second Coming and Elastica's The Menace to name a few), Cake have come out in the minority here by bringing us their most appealing record since 1996's Fashion Nugget, a great reward for such a lengthy process.