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B-Sides and Rarities
Upbeat Records

B-sides comps have a predisposition to sounding like toss-off bits of fluff filler, usually relegated to the shelves of completist collectors and uber-fans, but Cake, ever efficient in the delivery of retro-chic geek funk rock, sidesteps this possible disaster. Even with an album brimming with covers (another warm over pitfall neatly sidestepped by the veteran group), Cake compiles a smooth set showcasing the band’s diversity within a trademark sloppy-silly, trumpet and crushed guitar patchwork of melody and rhythm.

Fans hooked on Cake ever since “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle” skewered the alt-rock world of walking clichés in ’94, will not be surprised by this collection’s aesthetic homogenization of divergent source material, but even the casual Cake fan can rejoice in the whiteboy funkification of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” (both live a studio versions included as bookends for the disc) or the honky-tonk pluck of Kenny Rogers and Buck Owens rehashed for the skinny tie, thick glasses set.

The mathematical chop of bass and fuzz guitar on “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up” sounds as fresh as it did when it first showed up on the American Werewolf in Paris soundtrack. John McCrea’s lucidly lazy vocal delivery sounds as comfortable tackling Barry White as it does churning out live originals “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” and “It’s Coming Down” toward the tail end of the disc. The assured live performances (captured from around the world for dramatic effect), vault the listener straight into the scattershot realm of transcendently fun rock Cake excels at, especially the sweltering muted trumpet and Beatles-esque vocal harmonizing of “It’s Coming Down.”

Despite the acid burn-inducing synthetic grape odor of the scratch-n-sniff cover art (different colors signal different scents, avoid purple), Cake delivers a snazzy collection of engaging egghead funkiness.

Favorite Track: “War Pigs”

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Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in San Francisco with a girl and a designer dog (Chihuahua vs. dachshund). He is in a band by himself and has a myspace account ( and a production company ( for freelance film and crit/journo work.

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