RELUCTANTLY CROUCHED AT THE STARTING LINE

I just love that opening line to this #22 hit single from the autumn of 1996.

My first exposure to it was on Channel 4 which, at the time, occasionally aired music videos inbetween programmes. I’m almost certain this was shown immediately in advance of the main news show which has always been broadcast at 7pm.

Cake, as wiki informs us, are an alternative rock band from Sacramento, California. Consisting of singer John McCrea, trumpeter Vince DiFiore, guitarist Xan McCurdy, bassist Gabe Nelson and drummer Paulo Baldi, the band has been noted for McCrea’s sarcastic lyrics and monotone vocals, DiFiore’s trumpet parts, and their wide-ranging musical influences, including country music, Mariachi, rock, funk, Iranian folk music and hip hop.

They have enjoyed sporadic success in their home nation, including a #1 album as recently as 2011 but over here in the UK they have been very much an underground act and The Distance remains their highest charting 45 while the LP it was lifted from, Fashion Nugget, is the only one that has made it inside the Top 75.

I do like this single – the deadpan vocals and the trumpet solo help lift it above the norm.

mp3 : Cake – The Distance

The CD single had three other tracks on offer:-

mp3 : Cake – Multiply The Heartaches
mp3 : Cake – Jolene (live)
mp3 : Cake – It’s Coming Down

The first is very influenced by country music; bits of it remind me of Squeeze tacking the genre on Labelled With Love. There’s also a feeling of sounding, vocally, like Mark E Everett.

The second is NOT a cover of the song made famous by Dolly Parton and later recorded by Glasgow’s very own Strawberry Switchblade. It’s one of their own compositions and could be something out of the canon of Violent Femmes with added trumpet. Warning. It goes on for over 8 minutes and involves audience participation. I’m guessing it’s lifted from a radio show as the occasional swear word is bleeped out.

The final track is very much a b-side effort; it’s a bit laboured and repetitive. Not one that I’ll listen to again willingly – one for the ‘next’ button function on your listening device.

JC

4 thoughts on “RELUCTANTLY CROUCHED AT THE STARTING LINE

  1. Great song.
    And you’re not mistaken, channel 4 regularly showed videos (mainly of the indie/britpop variety) straight after Hollyoaks which was then trying to gain a trendy britpop audience.

  2. I have a particular fondness for Cake for several reasons. They hit the scene in California just after I got here. They feature a trumpet which I always love to hear in rock music. They are an outstanding live act. They co-headlined the first festival I ever took my son to (age 8; other headliner was Flaming Lips). And they don’t sound like anyone else. One thing I’m not especially fond of is this single, which was played to death by local radio. McCrea’s voice gets monotonous after a few listens and this song got thousands of listens. So many better ones to choose from. Check out ‘Satan Is My Motor’ from the band’s 2006 release Prolonging the Magic for an idea of how great the band was/is. JC, the song Jolene came from the debut album Motorcade of Generosity, which had another good single called ‘Rock n Roll Lifestyle’. Thanks for this post – going to add some Cake to my rotation!

  3. Funny story about this song – it was written by Greg Brown and not John McCrea, making it one of the three or so tunes he wound up writing for the band. When it hit big McCrea of course got all the attention, eventually leading to Brown quitting and taking half the band with him. They formed a band called Deathray which at some point contained more original members of Cake than Cake itself. But Cake’s sound barely changed; they’re so consistent from album to album that you’d never know how much lineup turnover they had to deal with. If you’ve ever wondered why “The Distance” is such an outlier in their catalogue (at least, as much of an “outlier” as you’ll get with a band as one-note as Cake), that’s why.

    That said – I still have a soft spot for them. They meant a lot to me in middle school and high school and you never quite forget that. I agree with JTFL above – “Satan is my Motor” is one to check out, that chugging guitar and awesome call-and-response hook represents everything the band does so well. They wound up becoming a parody of themselves soon after (“Short Skirt Long Jacket” is a killer tune but feels like a Weird Al style parody to me) – still pretty decent, but y’know, you can only take a sound so far. Cool band though.

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