I had honestly forgotten how much I like Cake. Years of too much radio play hardened me to those catchy tunes like Never There and The Distance, making me forget all about the beats so steeped in funk you can't help but move your hips, the spot-on transitions that would make any music major proud, the deep melodic sarcasm of John McCrea's voice, and the plain old virtuosity of these people as musicians. What I hadn't forgotten was McCrea's attitude: bitter, jaded, and a bit antagonistic to his audience.
In fact, when I last saw Cake in Portland almost a decade ago, McCrea went so far as to insult the crowd for only showing up to hear the radio single I Will Survive, asking if anyone even knew their other songs. (Would it have killed him to thank them for padding his paycheck, however they found him?...) My embarrassment at being associated with one of the mindless minions (though I was a true Cake fan at the time, and didn't even like I Will Survive that much), and my anger at McCrea for making me feel embarrassed about it, might have been part of the reason I've hardly listened to the Sacramento songsters since then.
Until the last night of Noise Pop, when it all came rushing back. The band took the stage at Bimbo's in front of a packed crowd of mostly 30-somethings, all die-hard fans who sang along with nearly every song. And as that twangy guitar intros started and McCrea banged the vibraslap and they launched into some of my old favorites - You Part the Waters and Is This Love? - I remembered: This is is a great fucking band.
And then as McCrea yelled at people in the front row for taking pictures, and responded to audience requests by saying, "Thanks for the input, but we don't want to feel like a jukebox. So what do we want to play?", and as he launched into a tirade against the music industry, I also remembered that McCrea is still an asshole (or in need of a really big hug). A hilarious, sarcastic, droll, witty, talented asshole, but an asshole all the same.
Of course, that's part of what gives Cake character. And if being an asshole isn't enough to make me not date you (you know who you are...), then it sure isn't enough to make me stop buying your records.
Since the band is on an anti-corporate (and anti-publicity) kick, the chances of them playing anywhere near here anytime soon is pretty slim. But you can get their self-released CD "B-Sides and Rarities," with its scratch and sniff cover art, here. As for me? I'm getting another copy of Motorcade of Generosity. I suddenly have a craving to hear about birds falling from window ledges like small loaves of bread...(Molly Freedenberg)