Album in Depth: Motorcade of Generosity by Cake

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. Again, I’m going into progressive music too deep and complaining about minor things. Rereading my last two blogs, I can see I was almost only bitching about how some of the best prog rock ever wasn’t exactly perfect and it had minor flaws: after all, I believe it’s the genre I know the best. So, this time I’ll try to venture a little bit outside of the prog… well, at least outside of the big ass solos, but not so much afar from the creativity and creepy moments.

This week will be Motorcade of Generosity by Cake. I got to know Cake because, once again, a girl I was into liked it a lot. And when I found out she was a lesbian, and is now in England married to another one (if you are reading this, Julia, congratulations, so happy for you), the only thing that remained was this album on my shelf. So, what is Cake beside a delicious dessert and how grammatically wrong is the word “Motorcade”? A little background is required.

The year is 1994. The Lion King sees the silver screen and Forrest Gump gets the Oscar for best picture. Green Day releases Dookie and Kurt Cobain dies at the mythical age of 27. Knuckles shows himself in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Darkstalkers, one of the best fighting games ever, sees the arcades. The confusing, even though somewhat interesting, Clone Saga starts in the Spider-Man comics and the comic characters mourn the passing of the great Jack Kirby.

Cake, although formed three years before in 1991, was without a full long play album, although already having a single (completely without expression). The band from Sacramento started with John McCrea, Vince DiFiori, Greg Brown, Frank French and Shon Meckfessel: and with this formation released their debut album, which is the album we’re looking now.

Motorcade is the pseudo suffix of Cavalcade on “Motor”, being a procession of motored cars. It doesn’t make that much sense, but I guess it mixes well with the proposition of the band. What the hell could be a Motorcade of Generosity? I don’t know, and probably the band doesn’t know either.

The cover art is as alternative rock as can be; with the typed title, the huge logo of the band, the orange art that reminds me of Dadaism and Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, promising exactly what the album probably will be: an alternative rock album (and for some, alternative country, I don’t know, I don’t see it). The entire album clocks at 43:12, awesome, with the shortest song being the intro track Comanche, with 2:09, and the longest track being Mr. Mastodon Farm, with 5:27, totalizing 13 songs. Pretty good for a debut album with 13 tracks that could air on radio.

The album wasn’t exactly well received, but it didn’t get any bad mentions as well: it was a pretty average received album. With the shortest intro ever, let’s get this on with: Motorcade of Generosity by Cake.

1st track: “Comanche” – This song shows exactly what Cake is all about: the completely deadpan singing, the strange and funny lyrics, the trumpets and the unusual rock form that they always used. It reminds me a bit of “Drink With Me” from Les Miserables at some points, including a bridge that could’ve been taken out of a “remember that guy?” bar song. Great song, great intro track. If there is a complaint, it would be that the song keeps the same through it all, with the only mild change being in the “dadada” part.

2nd track: “Ruby Sees All” – Even though the song starts with a more normal rock intro, it suddenly changes to a more… cake type of song with the only difference being the lack of trumpets all of the time, but having a solo: the broken melody is still there, with the guitar and drums being the front-piece of the song. With an kick ass outro, the song deserves a high place in their songs, even though it wasn’t a single.

3rd track: “Up So Close” – With a creepy start that reminds me of salsa, the deadpan singing makes it worse for me, because the song needs a happier vocal. With the prolonging of the song, it gets pretty boring, even with a somewhat enjoyable guitar solo that mixes well with the song. The trumpet, for the first time, starts to wear thin and makes this song the first one that falls short.

4th track: “Pentagram” – Another creepy start, but this time around the song is more country oriented, even with the lyrics talking about sacrificial rites and dead babies. The song could be fun if the singing was a little better (I don’t think the deadpan voice goes well with such a country song) and the guitar was a little more inventive: it’s the only thing that shines bright in the song, but it doesn’t take any chances outside of the guitar solo. The lack of evolution in the song is what hurts it the most.

5th track: “Jolene” – …That was a false start? Usually, they rerecord it. I guess Cake is too great to rerecord stuff. As a more tradition rock and roll girl song, this song accomplishes some things, if you ignore the singing and the obnoxious lyrics; after all, Jolene is not an easy rhyme. However, the lack of enthusiasm of the singing and the trumpets give a funeral atmosphere to the song, and to be honest, it doesn’t please me at all. You can see that Cake’s formula wasn’t formulated yet: and this one was one of their most successful songs of the time. Can’t see why, though. At the four minute and ten second mark, the background goes grunge as the song leaves you with a bad taste with bad screaming (unusual for Cake) and a fade out.

6th track: “Haze of Love” – After three bad songs, a simple but great song. It has the Cake feel that wasn’t yet mature, but is still great. The simple guitar and fun lyrics are what make it work, with the singing finally mixing in after strike three. The guitar solo, although noisy, works and even as the song doesn’t evolve at all, with the start being almost exactly as the ending, on this song, it actually is quite enjoyable. Sure, it has its flaw: mostly in the guitar solo, that I think had some production issues, but overall, this song should be listened to, even if it’s not as good as the first two ones.

7th track: “You Part the Waters” – Funk music with lounge piano start? Why, you ask? Because it’s awesome. The lyrics have some issues for me, but the overall song wins everything. It is what in the future would become their version of “Guitar Man”. I don’t know why the album is so bipolar, but it is. The guitar solo is mixed with trumpets and a string section that makes everything so stranger. However, from the solo to the rest of the song, it drops a notch only to get it back again for the outro. Another great song.

8th track: “Is This Love?” – Again, with a sort of “Guitar Man” start, the song promises, however, with the start of the singing, the song loses its credibility. What hurts this song, again, is the singing, as he sings right atop what seems to be great bass line. It is the type of song that a more exciting singing would fit best, as all the other instruments are great (including, but not only, the trumpets) and almost makes the song worthy. The lyrics are again clever, but it doesn’t compensate the singing. I would probably enjoy listening to this track played by another band.

9th track: “Jesus Wrote a Blank Check” – Another country oriented start, let’s see if this time they managed to get it right. Well, it’s not horrible, but it’s not exactly great also. Better than Pentagram, but not so much. It is repetitive, obnoxious, has a strange message that I guess is good and all, but doesn’t mesh with the album as a whole (or the style of the band) to the point where it seems dissonant. At the 1:50 mark, the song takes a turn to the worse, but I guess it was on purpose: why would they worsen the music on purpose is beyond me. The outro is just the same verse repeated to the end, with a backmasked verse saying: “Don’t Forget to Breathe In”. It’s average, at least.

10th track: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle” – This song, for me, is a mystery. It’s just… so… it should’ve been the easier song to analyze ever. It has everything that is boring, bland and uninteresting, including broken vocals, strange melody, creepy arrangements… but… it’s great! I think that the reason why is that the lyrics are so good that it carries the rest with it and even the boring and uninteresting gets a boost to “ah, so it’s uninteresting for a reason” and the song achieves a status of cool. The lyrics are a punch to the gut to hipsters and, mostly, musicians that treat others like crap. It is a great song, and should be listened too: definitely a highlight of the album.

11th track: “I Bombed Korea” – Starting with a simple rock guitar line, the song gets depressing really fast, as you don’t really know if the song is a funny depressing or just straight depressing… I think it’s the latter… depressing serious stuff doesn’t fit Cake’s performance. Instrumentally, the song is great; however, the singing makes everything really bad. The song is pretty bad with no redeeming factor, unless “bomb Korea” is a metaphor. Overall, it is the type of song I fear I didn’t get, and if you didn’t get it as me, you will notice it is pretty bad.

12th track: “Mr. Mastodon Farm” – The longest song starts… awkwardly. When your song only good factor is a harmonica solo you know you are in deep shit. It’s a boring song, repetitive as hell, that you will be counting the seconds till it ends. The lyrics are shit, and it doesn’t compensate the repetitiveness of the lyrics: yes, the lyrics repeat themselves like a Rage Against the Machine song. This song was not really thought through and it is the longest: what were they thinking?

13th track: “Ain’t No Good” – It starts as Queen’s “Misfire” for eight seconds, but as the singing starts, the song’s vibe changes completely. What makes this song works is the trumpets and the guitars: actually, the overall instrumentation of it. The vocal tries the entire time to make the song sucks, but it fails to do so, making the song a “Win”. It’s definitely not the best song of the album, but it’s good. The lyrics are, again, creative, as it’s trying to persuade someone to forget about a certain girl that isn’t good for him, and it works as an advice song. Pretty solid closing song, after some not so good songs.

So, all those it all holds up? To say this album is a synthesis of Cake’s career would be a lie, since on most departments, they improved: with some misses, they won the ability to know beforehand which songs fits with McCrea singing and which song don’t. It has some great songs (especially Comanche, Rock ‘n Roll Lifestyle and Ruby Sees All) but in a 13 track album, it doesn’t compensate. This one is a bad debut album. Should be listened only by Cake fans that want to know where they came from. If you are just after some great tracks, just listen to those three and try to listen some of their future works: they are pretty good. If you are not a fan of indie rock, however, maybe you’ll get some giggles of Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle, but that’s about all the pleasure you’ll grab from this album.

This is JotaKa, signing off.

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