In 1999, I was a 11-year-old, junior high student ripe with awkwardness and puberty. My music taste was still commercial and flat and I had just survived a embarassing obsession with The Spice Girls. I even had Britney Spears and Usher in my collection of regularly played CDs–it was a sad time in my life.
All the coming-of-age stresses and the fresh sense of independence derived from the junior high lifestyle opened my eyes to a world of choices. On top of that, Santa Cruz’s tattoo-clad subculture that rebelled against pretty much anything mainstream and put punk on pedastal had wiggled it’s way into my stream of consciousness.
Punk was all about throwing out all the rules and throwing out everything society had taught us was normal. It was about making your own clothing, making a statement through electric blue hair and celebrating the strange. So I embraced the strange, but some of the punk was too gruff after my bubble gum days and The Dead Kennedys were still unrelateable.
Honoring my newly founded punk-ish rebellion, one day I found myself snooping in my older brother’s room and came across his music collection. I instantly ripped a bunch of the CDs that called out to me and quickly fell deep in love with Cake’s 1998 album, Prolonging the Magic. I put that ripped CD in my discman and listened to it on repeat for hours and days and eventually those days turned to weeks and I still could never seem to burn myself out.
Cake’s sound is odd; it is unconventional and off beat–and that’s exactly what I loved about it. John McCrea pulls apart our traditional concept of lyrical sound and surprises fans with monotone vocals that still manage to be engaging despite the intended dryness. The lyrics themselves delve into the structure of relationships and use a repetitive chorus to create a hurricane of thoughts all pointing directly to themes of a higher social consciousness.
Beyond McCrea’s unusual vocal sound, the instrumental structure took apart conflicting genres and shook them back together with a modern brightness. The blend of punk, folk, hip hop, mariachi and country created a never before sound that has been forced into the wide and commanding genre of alternative rock.
After several years obsessing over Cake the band released their fourth album, Comfort Eagle and gave me something new to admire. Not only did I become obsessed with the new album, but it inspired me to look backwards at Cake’s previous work. As a fan, obviously I am biased, but it seemed Cake could do no wrong.
Cake continues to do well and have announced a new album to release in the upcoming year. With a history that began in 1994 up to this moment, Cake has been one of the staples in alternative rock making consistently memorable tracks with an unparalleled sound. Their ability to inspire and celebrate the strange in a relateable way is what makes them epic. Their live shows are full of energy and there’s a guarantee that hard core fans will show up to chant along with all their classics. I know that after sixteen years, I still perk up every time Cake floods my ears and I can’t imagine that that will ever change.
So have your Cake and eat it too; see Cake live at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach this Sunday!