Cake, eh? If ever the world was in need of their lyrically astute, musically simple college rock, it’s now. The fact that they have a new album due later this year has nothing to do with this re-issuing of this, their 1994 debut LP. It’s just a coincidence.
Motorcade Of Generosity, however, is far more than just a 15-year-old sales gimmick. It was the album that paved the way for McCrea and co’s long-lasting, culturally-embedded career, and the forerunner of the band’s varied, occasional hits (The Distance, Short Skirt/Long Jacket).
But it was also released in times when American college radio airplay held far greater significance in terms of mainstream success and the fortunes of such outfits. Usurped by an internet full of witty deadpanning, what further pleasures can be derived from a re-print of Cake’s witty deadpanning of 15 years past?
If you’re not familiar with the group, imagine, if you will, the two musicians who pop up now and then in There’s Something About Mary, or the tune Jim Carrey whistles as he dunks a small child’s head underwater in Me, Myself & Irene: here is a pop legacy built on charm, sarcasm, simplicity, and a lyrical confidence apparent in crystal-clear enunciation.
Motorcade shimmies into earshot with Comanche, an aurally sparse sprinkling of advice to Native Americans that seizes attention with John McCrea’s trademark reigned-in draw, which is itself succeeded by Ruby Sees All, the loud-quiet stamp of riffery that presents itself – to varying extents – throughout the Cake discography.
With Jolene, the band drives Motorcade through its strongest passage. McCrea rallies passionately against the tedium suffocating the titular character, his lyrical tour de force augmented with the album’s greatest riff and most fully realised cacophony. It’s a snapshot of Cake in their early prime.
Haze Of Love carries the baton adeptly, serving as a further plateau of astute observation, whilst You Part The Waters exhibits the band in a jam session, all delicate guitar funk, extended solo allowances and a rather glorious vocal harmony crescendo.
Also on display is the sharp wit and playfulness of Jesus Wrote A Blank Cheque, as well as the band’s debut single, Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle, in which poseurs on both sides of the microphone are called to account for their phoney behaviour: “How much did you spend on your black leather jacket?” asks McCrea. “Is it you or your parents in this income tax bracket?”
Amid the final trio of tracks, Mr Mastodon Farm provides Motorcade with its figurative exclamation mark. As a simply layered, gradually unfurling, plainly poetic piece, it holds in equal measure the constituent ingredients of Cake’s enduringly charming legacy.
And so, in spite of the time passed since its inception (or perhaps because of it), Motorcade Of Generosity transcends trends – of its era but not defined by it – and is as utterly listenable today as it was when Forrest Gump topped the box office. Not bad going for a bit of confection.