Pressure Chief Import
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While artists like Beck and Radiohead see every new album as an opportunity for reinvention from the ground up, Cake has no such hang-ups. From the uniformly rustic cover art, the jerky rhythms and wobbly trumpet solos, each of Sacramento band's albums is reassuringly interchangeable. But on its fifth, the group's most distinguishing characteristic--John McCrea's deadpan, detached vocals--seems to have been given a makeover. On songs such as "No Phone" and "Tougher Than It Is" for the first time the singer seems, well, like he's actually trying to sing. It's nothing dramatic--the music will still sound immediately familiar to those who even in passing have heard hits such as "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and "The Distance"--but with certain bands a little goes a long way. --Aidin Vaziri
However, this is the first album that feels tired and out of musical ideas. Yes, the lyrics are still interesting and amusing and even quite clever ("Dime"), but the melodies, compositions and arrangements vary little from one another or from their previous four albums. "Pressure Chief" is a short (under 40 minutes) unsatisfying snack. It feels as if Columbia record execs have sucked the band dry.
Nevertheless, there are some salvageable songs like "No Phone", "Dime", "The Guitar Man", "End Of The Movie", "Palm Of Your Hand" and "Tougher Than It Is". But, you know, I made my own compilation of songs I like from each album onto one disc and it all sounded the same! I think Cake need a shot of musical inspiration at this point, or are they planning to release five more albums over the next ten years of the same thing? I'd hate to see them turn out like Chicago, Journey, REO Speedwagon or Styx did. These guys are my favorite band from Sacramento besides Bourgeois Tagg (who?).
If you're a Cake fan, I'm sure you already own this, but to casual fans you might was to try "Comfort Eagle", "Prolonging The Magic" or "Fashion Nugget" to start--or better yet, wait for a best of Cake!
This record is a winner start to finish. Cake has the wonderful quality of being appropriate for most all listening situations. Particularly like "Wheels", "Too Much", "Tougher". Sweet, clever, intelligent, brave. Tells a story and somehow manages to include you in it. Ideas you can get behind without really needing to raise a fist. Deeply romantic and unrealistic songs. Great stuff.
The off-beat, staccato ridiculousness of it all is in almost full bloom. Comfort Eagle, B-Sides, Fashion Nugget, and Prolonging the Compassion are the rest you need to round out your collection
Anyway, back to the album. I was surprised at how instantly good all the songs were... I didn't have to listen to these songs more than once to realize they were great. I'm not that familiar with all the song titles yet, but a couple great songs to skip to as soon as you get your CD are: dime, guitar man, and waiting... those are a few standout tracks.
Lastly, the final song "Harder than it is" really spoke to me... it's a great song and the lyrics really speak to me... actually I think it was written about people like me. Makes me think. Anyway, if you like Cake buy the album... there's no reason not to.