In 1992, John McCrea started the group Cake. He had recently returned to Sacramento after going to Los Angeles to pursue his career as a musician. Besides McCrea, the original lineup was guitarist Greg Brown, trumpeter Vince DiFiore, bassist Sean McFessel, and drummer Frank, French. However, French was replaced by Gabe Nelson before releasing their 1993 single Rock’ n’ Roll Lifestyle. The group self-produced their first album, Motorcade of Generosity which only appeared locally. However, after Cake signed with Capricorn, the label released the album nationally. After the release, neither Nelson nor French wanted to commit to an extensive tour schedule, leaving the band. Victor Damiani and Todd Roper replaced them on bass and drums. Cake’s most well-known album was Fashion Nugget, released in 1996. One of the songs, The Distance, has become a standard at many sporting events. After Brown and Damiani left the band in 1997, McCrea considered ending the group. Instead, he brought back Nelson and used five different guitarists for the tracks on Prolonging the Magic. According to energy.gov, in 2011, the group recorded their album Showroom of Compassion using only solar energy. Using solar power to release this album created positive energy. The group has always been firmly committed to saving the environment. They give away a tree at each concert and encourage fans to carpool to their shows. These are the 10 best Cake songs of all time.
10. Never There
The opening dial tone and McCrea’s voice create the opening for a song that sounds like someone who is either upset that their significant other is never around or someone who may have an unhealthy obsession with someone who’s trying to get away from them. The punctuation of the trumpet adds to the sinister vibe of this song. This was the only Cake song to make the Billboard Charts. In 1999, it spent 17 weeks at number 17 and peaked at number 78.
9. Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town
Kenny Rogers initially did this song steeped in traditional country. However, Cake’s version also has cowboy elements, but more like you’d expect to see in the Vince Vaughn film Clay Pigeons. Moreover, Cake’s version has whimsy that is missing in the other version.
8. Race Car Ya-Yas
Even though The Distance was more well known, this is another fun song about racing cars. However, underneath the lyrics, you hear a scathing social commentary about the subculture of the sport. Even for a note, the guitar sounds tinny, and the intermittent trumpet parts create a complexity absent in many other songs released during the 90s.
7. Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps
This song has salsa and Latin influence, and McCrea’s voice and DiFiore’s trumpets add elements of a big band. Cake’s entire career was built on fusing unlikely styles of music to create masterpieces. Near the end of the song, you begin to hear light bongo drums which may seem out of place in other pieces but work well with Cake’s eclectic style.
6. Friend is a Four-Letter Word
This song sounds like Bob Dylan Positively Fourth Street updated. The refrain stays with the listener long after the song is over. It’s incredible how many people say they are friends but, in reality, talk behind other’s backs. At the beginning of the song, the mournful guitar riffs reflect the terrible feeling when we find out someone has turned on you.
5. Strangers In The Night
Another song from Cake’s album B-Sides and Rarities is an unlikely cover. Even though the Sex Pistols knocked it out of the park with their cover of another Old Blue Eyes song, it’s a rarity for this genre of music to be covered by a punk or alternative band. The instrumentation in the song is much more sparse than the original take. The intermittent trumpet helps keep the song traditional, while McCrea’s voice adds the twist to make it modern. Additionally, the mix adds some futuristic vibes leaving Cake’s eclectic signature on the song.
4. Love You Madly
This song is one of the group’s few love songs. However, it comes across much like Barenaked Ladies If I Had A Million Dollars than something to slow dance to in the rain. It’s a fun song with a lot of unique imagery. Since falling in love is equated to being hit by a truck by cynics, the image of an elephant crashing in makes the thought of getting run over by love more comical and less sarcastic.
3. Stick Shifts and Safety Belts
Let’s face it, some cars aren’t built for snuggling on your significant other’s shoulder during long car rides. Cake’s song is an uncomfortable tribute to this problem. When they take on topics like relationships throughout their catalog, they make them fun and playful instead of being a long litany of how much they love a person. The drum beats in this song add light punctuation, making it seem like bumps on the road. Additionally, the instrumentation evokes a song that might be played in a Honky tonk.
2. Short Skirt Long Jacket
Throughout Cake’s catalog, they explore numerous styles of music, all under the heading of alternative rock. In this song, despite the modern lyrics, the group fuses mariachi and funk. Much like the lyrics of other songs, Cake sings in contradictions; all of the things that the person is listing for his significant other are contradictions.
1. Sheep Go To Heaven
According to Songfacts, the lyrics in this song are part of the Gospel of Matthew. During Biblical times, goats were thought to be a symbol of hell because they had cloven hooves. Throughout the song, they make additional references to other religions and spiritual beliefs. “I just want to play on my panpipes, I just want to drink me some wine,” refers to Bacchus, the Roman God of theatre and wine. The song’s beat makes it a catchy song about living in the moment and keeping a good sense of humor about life. After all, as the old saying goes, “don’t take life too seriously; after all, you’re not getting out alive.”