After the breakout 1996 hit “The Distance,” Cake was recognizable enough for Weird Al to parody its musical style (in a song called “Close But No Cigar”), and that style hasn’t changed much since. Cake touted a new direction for Showroom Of Compassion—its first album in seven years—but it isn’t a huge departure from what Cake boss John McCrea and company have done before. “Oh no” and “all right” litter the background, there’s plenty of staccato singing and references to cars—every hallmark is here. But as with your favorite dessert, there’s nothing wrong with another helping.
Some of the attitude has softened, McCrea’s vocals are less dominating, and the band as a whole sounds more relaxed, perhaps because Showroom is Cake’s first album on its own label and was recorded in a solar-powered studio, taking it literally and figuratively off the grid. Standout songs include “Federal Funding,” an overtly political bluesy head-nodder with early Chicago-style horns, and “Long Time,” which blends sounds like Shadowfax, but rocks like no Wyndham Hill act ever could. “Sick Of You” could be from a latter-day Rolling Stones or Lenny Kravitz disc, and “Bound Away” is Cake-style country featuring original guitarist (and “The Distance” songwriter) Greg Brown. The instrumental “Teenage Pregnancy” adds a different flavor, but still doesn’t sound out of place. Fans of the band’s old stuff should find plenty to love, even though it all feels pretty familiar.