Music

Cake: B-Sides and Rarities

A collection of covers (and a few revisited originals), Rarities and B-Sides finds Cake finding inspiration in the usual strange places.


Cake

B-Sides and Rarities

Label: Upbeat
US Release Date: 2007-08-14
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

The commonly perceived knock against Cake has always been that they're ironic and distant, and that it's hard to tell if they're really invested in their songs. Having a hit like the sardonic "Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle" will have that effect. Then again, that same song concludes, "Excess ain't rebellion / You're drinking what they're selling / Your self-destruction doesn't hurt them / Your chaos won't convert them", and there's not much irony to be found there.

Still, the band's own sound and presentation don't help. Often, John McCrea doesn't so much sing as much as he adopts a cadence appropriate to the song, and the band's dry guitar tone rarely, if ever, conveys much emotion. It's the sound of a band that's keeping the material at arm's length (even if they're actually not -- a debate that won't be settled here). However, when you take a look at their website, full of links to various news items and grassroots movements, its hard to believe that a band this socially conscious isn't making a comment of some sort in its music, especially when covering someone else's material.

A large portion of B-Sides and Rarities consists of covers. And it's safe to say that Cake abandons irony in their cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs"; they think enough of it to include it twice, after all, as a studio version and as a live recording (featuring the Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd). It's a little disappointing that Cake didn't take more chances with the song, though. Apart from a burbling bass line and the band's trademark horns (which assert their presence too late, since they really could have added an interesting angle to the song), Cake play it pretty straight -- and playing it straight with "War Pigs" guarantees you'll never match the original's power.

But you don't get the sense that Cake are trying to reinvent the wheel with any of the covers on B-Sides and Rarities. So if their take on "Strangers in the Night" seems a little slight, or if their version of Piero Umiliani’s "Mahna Mahna" seems like little more than an excuse to inject random things like birdsong and 8-bit bleeps and bloops, it's not that big of a deal. In the same vein, you could argue that Cake just slap their patented distance on Barry White's "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up", but they show that it can fit that template pretty well.

B-Sides and Rarities also underscores the band's affection for classic country music, something that's been clear since "Pentagram" and "Jesus Wrote a Blank Check" tinkered with twang on 1994's Motorcade of Generosity. The band's style -- especially the guitar tone, which is tailor-made for a countryish, chicken-pickin' style -- lends itself to covers of country songs. Here, we get Mel Tillis' "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town", Buck Owens and Harlan Howard's "Excuse Me, I Think I've Got a Heartache", and Kathy Dee's "Subtract One Love (Multiply the Heartaches)" (made popular by George Jones).

Of the smattering of Cake originals, live radio broadcast versions of "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" and "It's Coming Down" are well chosen, since they're two of Cake's better songs. They're pretty close to the album versions, but their live energy definitely help close the disc with a bang. B-Sides and Rarities might not be the best introduction for someone new to Cake, but for those who enjoy the band's style -- and their way with other artists' songs -- the disc offers a fine diversion.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.