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Pressure Chief

Cake

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Album Review

Released in 2004, Pressure Chief marks Cake's tenth year with a set of sardonic, engaging alternative pop that shows the Sacramento band's economical sound unwilted after all these years. Chief features artwork and typography typical to the group, as well the familiar three-color print scheme and stiff cardstock paper. John McCrea's wit is as dry as ever, and his tongue has grown sharper with the addition of a social comment streak that occasionally goes quite cynical. Single "No Phone" decries the encroachment of technology, while "Carbon Monoxide" is an upbeat, Beatlesque number that nevertheless wonders cynically, "Where's the air?" Later, the wispily funky "Tougher Than It Is" encourages listeners to take it easy, because life's going to keep throwing curve balls anyway. Cake have always positioned themselves as cultural observers, but McCrea's opinions on Chief rely more on clarity than wryness. This doesn't make the album a downer. It opens with "Wheels," a song built from the best parts of Cake's thrifty yet effective arsenal. McCrea's narrative mostly concerns a breakup, and life moving on ("Wheels keep on spinning 'round..."). But his imagery is on overdrive once he hits the singles bar, where the "Muscular cyborg German dudes dance with sexy French Canadians." The song's punctuated by a classic Vince Di Fiore descending trumpet line and some fan-favorite "HEY!"s from McCrea. In the tradition of "I Will Survive," the band tackles another cover song, this time reinterpreting Bread's "Guitar Man." With its vintage synthesizers squiggling off the cues of an acoustic guitar, their version meanders at a comforting pace akin to Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1," and even gives McCrea a chance to sing a little. Other highlights include "She'll Hang the Baskets," where guest Chuck Prophet fills out the mournful melody with some fuzzily toned electric guitar, and "Dime," where the charmingly home-recorded quality of Pressure Chief really stands out. Smart, subtly subversive, and always catchy — if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Biography

Formed: 1992 in Sacramento, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Best-known for their ubiquitous hit "The Distance," Cake epitomized the postmodern, irony-drenched aesthetic of '90s geek rock. Their sound freely mixed and matched pastiches of widely varying genres — white-boy funk, hip-hop, country, new wave pop, jazz, college rock, and guitar rock — with a particular delight in the clashes that resulted. Their songs were filled with lyrical non-sequiturs, pop-culture references, and smirky satire, all delivered with bone-dry detachment by speak/singing...
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Pressure Chief, Cake
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