November 27, 2019 by Don Russo
In case you didn’t know, November 26th is Cake Day, and while they might be referring to the confectionary treat, we think it’s a great opportunity to celebrate one of the most unique and unmistakably groovy bands in alt-rock history: Cake.
Born in Sacramento, CA, Cake is known for their eclectic genre-bending music, ranging from country to hip-hop, jazz to nu-metal. However, the one thing that ties everything together is the distinct vocals and lyrics of singer John McCrea. If you’re listening to a song and you hear the singer shout “Aw yeah!” or “Aw right!”, chances are it’s a Cake song. However, to explore some of the other hallmarks, let’s take a look at their top five songs of all time.
5. I Will Survive
I know what you might be thinking–” How dare they include a cover on this list!” While, yes, this isn’t an original song by Cake, this cover is so uniquely their flavor that it almost says more about the band than many of their originals. Featuring McCrea’s, signature monotone delivery with ripping electric guitar and slight lyrical variation, this cover is a perfect introduction to their sound. Of course, lest we forget, underlying the Niles Rogers-Esque funk chords and gorgeous trumpet is one of the most satisfying funky bass lines in the game.
4. Never There
Demonstrating well their glee towards conceptual tracks, Never There begins with a dial tone, perfectly in key with the rest of the song. As well, we hear McCrea’s vocals through a static telephone filter. Why? In this song, Cake wistfully bemoans the absence of their lover whenever they call them on the phone. Hardly a new concept, but executed with such exceptional flair that it’s forgiven, especially considering the heavy exacting drums and the haunting, poetic imagery in the lyrics (“A golden bird that flies away / a candlestick of flame”)
3. The Distance
This wouldn’t be a Top 5 Cake Songs list without mention of their number one hit. When this song dropped in ‘96, it soon when platinum, and took the country by a storm. The spoken-word delivery, heavy guitars, and absurd, driven lyrics were different enough to make alternative fans everywhere rejoice.
2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle
An unbelievably catchy track, this song is a surprisingly sharp critique of the music industry, posers, and false rebels, set to an ultra-crunchy guitar. As McCrea throws shade at the shameless sponsorships of certain pop stars, (“As long as the soda cans are red white and blue ones!”), the songs make a point about the inherent hypocrisy of ‘purchasing’ a rock and roll lifestyle, wherein you inevitably support those you initially wished to provoke. A killer message with a killer chorus.
- Short Skirt / Long Jacket
With lyrics inherently poking fun at “the strange behavior of the human mating ritual”–this song hits all the hallmarks of a great Cake song. Ripping electric guitar, bubbly brass, shouty-group vocals, and completely glib vocals, culminating in a fun “Nananana” reprise over a lightning tight bassline. Add some complex and ingenious percussion, and you have the most Cake you can fit in one song, which puts it at the top of our list. Finally, this song features what is possibly the best music video this band could make: a bunch of people listening to Cake. Brilliant.