Cake: Comfort Eagle

When Cake emerged with 1994's Motorcade Of Generosity, the Sacramento band sounded like a fresh-for-the-moment novelty, and certainly not a group likely to be turning out a high-profile fourth album in 2001. After all, the group's sound—the most obvious elements being John McCrea's wry monotone and Vince DiFiore's trumpet—has always been far from versatile. But seven years and several hits later, Cake is following up a million-selling album with Comfort Eagle, which carries on the band's simple but generally winning formula. Cake's past creative low points, like the awkward poetry reading "The Distance" or the obligatory ironic cover of "I Will Survive," have been its biggest hits, so it's nice to hear Comfort Eagle emphasizing poppier, more assured slices of life like "Pretty Pink Ribbon," the absurdly catchy "Commissioning A Symphony In C," and the vaguely Cars-esque "Shadow Stabbing." McCrea still drops the names of consumer products and examines pop-cultural archetypes, following the 90-second "Arco Arena" (named for Sacramento's corporate sporting facility) with the ambitious title track, a broad and periodically clumsy commentary about brand identity. Elsewhere, the single "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" finds a home for something resembling funkiness in Cake's dry sound, even tossing in a "na-na-na" chorus. Comfort Eagle's production feels a little too ticky-tacky at times, as it de-emphasizes DiFiore's trumpet in favor of electric guitars and thin keyboard sounds. But it's unmistakably a Cake record, and a strong one at that, fitting nicely into a small but comfortable mold.

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