Forgotten Classic: CAKE – Fashion Nugget

If more bands were like CAKE, the world would be a better place. Formed in Sacramento, CA in 1991, CAKE progressively over their career became permanent fixtures on the American Alternative scene. Their approach to their craft is to meticulously sculpt each and every song so that it is near perfect and explores as many musical ideas as possible, whilst never sounding overly complicated. Their style is a collage of genres; Alternative Rock, Jazz, Country, Bluegrass, Funk and Spoken Word. CAKE take the best parts of these genres and stamp their own identity onto them to create an incredibly unique sound.

Their second album, ‘Fashion Nugget’, released in 1996, is by far the band’s greatest achievement; it is their most cohesive work. From start to end, the album demonstrates CAKE’s crafted approach to song writing as well as their keen ear for a strong pop melody. Lead singer John McCrea’s witting, half-spoken, half-sung lyrics, fraught with humour, are wonderfully set against the versatile instrumentation with a heavy use of countermelody, rhythmic syncopation and layering.

Perhaps the most surreal moment on the album is the band’s mournful cover of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’, and along with Willie Nelson’s ‘Sad Song and Waltzes’ and Osvaldo Farres’ ‘Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps’ CAKE demonstrate their superb ability to take songs and make them wholly their own.

Unfortunately, their later work would ultimately be an attempt at regaining their artistic peak – their follow-up album was ironically entitled ‘Prolonging The Magic’. The great shame about CAKE is that they occupy something of a middle ground; the plethora of genres that comprise their sound ultimately make them somewhat alienating for any devoted fan of any of the genres they oscillate between. Still, it remains one of my favourite albums ever because it continues to gain my appreciation with every listen.

Ben James


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