Pressure Chief


Columbia, 2004

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


Lately, now that I’m about a week away from graduating, I tend to be prone towards reminiscences. And what better than to go back to 2004, the year of my (admittedly short-lived) infatuation with Cake?  The quirky California alt-rockers, best known for their gender-bending cover of “I Will Survive” and the perpetually catchy “Short Skirt, Long Jacket,” had just released this disc, their fifth studio album; it’s another in a line of distorted guitar riffs, punchy lyrics, and John McCrea’s signature heavily enunciated vocals that almost verge on rapping.

From its first few tracks on, Pressure Chief is brimming with energy. Opener “Wheels” is outfitted with churning guitars and an almost painfully catchy chorus, not to mention some lines that have some nice bite courtesy of McCrea – “In a seedy karaoke bar by the banks of the mighty Bosphorus /Is a Japanese man in a business suit singing ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’/ And the muscular cyborg German dudes dance with sexy French Canadians / While the overweight Americans wear their patriotic jumpsuits.”  Lead single “No Phone” is again buoyed along by a muscular guitar and bass riffs, and while McCrea’s vocals can be a little droning at times, they fit well with the moodier tone of this track.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What makes Cake so endearing and entertaining is their unflagging tongue-in-cheek sense of humor: what other group could make an ode to a coin (“Dime”) into the perfect gem of a pop track, stuffed full of sunny guitar runs and lines like “There's a ringle jingle near the underpass / “There's a sparkle near the fast food garbage and roadside trash.” Elsewhere, “Carbon Monoxide” is a hyped-up call for clean air full of bubbling synths and a fist-pumping call-and-response chorus.  

Cake also takes on “The Guitar Man,” jazzing up their cover with their signature keyed-up riffs and electronic backbeats, but paying debt to Bread’s original with relatively toned-down vocals from McCrea and some acoustic guitar strumming mixed in. 

Pressure Chief winds down near its end with a couple of more restrained tracks: “End Of The Movie” is a short acoustic ramble whose frenetic instrumentation is nicely at odds with the song’s downtrodden lyrics; meanwhile, the last four or so songs are all a little more blustery, and material like “Palm Of Your Hand” and “Tougher Than It Is” tends to shamble along without really making an impact or even being particularly catchy rather than being stuffed to the gills with the energy that made the preceding half of the album so intoxicating.

So overall, Pressure Chief may not be an entirely indelible disc, but it still makes for a fun half-hour listen, and of course, what really makes this album so enjoyable for me is all my memories associated with it -- watching the hilarious video for “No Phone” over and over and driving an hour-and-a-half on a Thursday night to see the band play -- and I wouldn’t trade those for anything.

Rating: B

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© 2008 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.