Monday, September 17, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 18



Cake gives fans a slice of new music on 'Eagle'

Comfort Eagle
*** (out of five stars)
Sony Records

By Ellen Simonson
Daily Cougar Staff

A lot of people forgot about Cake after its breakthrough single "Going the Distance" was released on the album Fashion Nugget in 1996.

The song, with its monotone vocals and stripped-down beat, was an instant hit -- but Cake was written off by many as a flash in the pan.

Its next hit, a cover of Donna Summer's disco classic "I Will Survive" (also from Fashion Nugget), was considered brilliant by some and awful
by others.

Frontman John McCrea's trademark wry vocals were in perfect counterpoint to the song's ostensible message of hope and liberation.

After Fashion Nugget came the disappointing Prolonging the Magic in 1998.

The album's title was unfortunate, as many fans saw Magic as just an attempt to extend the fame the band had garnered with its previous

The admittedly catchy "Never There" did, however, become Cake's best-selling single to date.

With this year's Comfort Eagle, Cake relies heavily on the formula that made it famous in the first place. Not that this is a bad thing -- with the
possible exception of Soul Coughing, nobody else even comes close to matching Cake's signature weirdness.

But Eagle occasionally suffers from the same malady that plagued Prolonging the Magic: Sometimes it just sounds too much like Cake.

Consider two songs, "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and "Commissioning a Symphony in C."

Both are built around the standard Cake-song template: a catchy bass line, McCrea's if-they're-not-patented-they-should-be vocals and a
healthy dose of rock. It's the lyrics that make the difference.

"Short Skirt/Long Jacket," the first single off Comfort Eagle, is lilting and sharp.

Its lyrics offer an honest glimpse into a real, if odd, person's head: "I want a girl who gets up early/ I want a girl who stays up late I want a
girl with uninterrupted prosperity/ who used a machete to cut through red tape."

First of all, rhyming "early" and "prosperity" is one of those genius-vs.-idiocy things only Cake could pull off. Setting that aside, though, this is
a great song, just funky and shrewd enough to put it above and beyond your average pop offering.

But "Commissioning a Symphony in C" has lyrics that aim higher but fall shorter. "So you'll be an Austrian nobleman/ commissioning a
symphony in C/ Which defies all earthly descriptions/ You'll be commissioning a symphony in C."

It's still Cake, so it's still well done -- but the band's occasional moments of brilliance (think "Italian Leather Sofa" from Fashion Nugget) are
so good that it's difficult to forgive missteps.

"Symphony in C" is dryly funny for the sake of being dryly funny, which just isn't enough from a band that can provide very insightful social
commentary when it so desires.

Comfort Eagle is a good album, though it's not great. Songs like "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and "Long Line of Cars" are vintage Cake, as good
as anything on Fashion Nugget. ("Long Line of Cars" is surprisingly introspective and pensive for Cake, as well.)

Even casual fans of the band should own Comfort Eagle. Cake may have done better, but nearly everyone else does worse.

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