When I first heard this album I was highly impressed with the range of musical styles, the use of unique vocal and instrumental melodies and most of all the skillful syncopation and unexpected rhythms of lead singer John McCrea's voice.

Since Cake is one of the few bands today who's lyrics I can easily understand without the use of liner notes, my opinion of the album soured significantly upon further listenings as I became more and more familiar with the subject matter.

As cool as these songs are, I couldn't help thinking that they sounded like the work or tortured misogynist fourteen-year-olds. And this album had so much potential. Here is my song-by-song breakdown:



Now that I got that out of my system, I propose that you buy this album, rip it and then burn the tracks in a different order. This is what would work for me, but as always YMMV:



Yes, I left out Friend. Because I don't like it. But I think this order has a much better feel to it - more uplifting, and it gets all the morose break up crap out of the way early.
This is a response to Qeyser's post above.

I think the best way to understand Cake's second album is to look at all of their work and see how it fits in. The major point of a great deal of their music is trying to gain an understanding of the young male mind. He's horny, he's afraid of commitment, he's afraid of what will happen when the girl of his love or lust goes away or gets tired of his adolescent bullshit and he gets a woody for fast cars. But he's also introspective, petty, aware of wider world issues and he's trying to figure out what he really thinks about the whole thing.

Fashion Nugget is a break-up album, unequivocally; a good deal of Cake's music is built around the destruction of a relationship or two, but not simply romantic relationships. But I digress. The relation that all these songs have with one another is not the subject but the singer. The "She" character changes from song to song, there are at least two. Instead the protagonist, the singer is the same throughout. He's got a personality that is changing throughout the album.

Analysis

Friend is a Four Letter Word is about betrayal, it is grating and harsh but quiet. The singer is talking to himself wishing he could say this to the person who betrayed him, who did something to him that hurt him and now all he can do is impotently think of all the things he could try to say to them. Daria I feel is the return to this idea, this quiet boy is voicing his anger. It is stronger, it has a core to it, some backbone, but it is still muted compared to many of their other songs. It has the quality of sounding like poorly pulled together adolescent poetry. I Will Survive also follows this vein but that is where that line stops.

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps (while certainly not my favorite on the album) is almost certainly not a breakup song, it's a pre-breakup song. The fact that he cares about this person falling in love with him tells me that this is someone new. Someone who is playing games with the singer. But at the call of this ultimatum, this change in the protagonist's personality has made them an asshole. And now, the bullshit he put up with with the last girl is the bullshit he's giving the new one. And now, "she" is leaving him. He knows that he is to blame and he's depressed at what a schmuck he is, and so is this girl. She leaves him while wearing his sweater, which is highly suggestive of her continued affection but at the same time the drama of the breakup signals her disappointment. This time the girl has found someone new and given up on moody boys.

But I feel that "She" changes in Italian Leather Sofa, or at least if it is the same "She" it also is more generalized to women of this sort. The reason I feel this change here is the fact that in It's Coming Down the girl leaves with his sweater. The woman in that is older and a trophy for some businessman. She sounds like a businesswoman herself, or at least just as ruthless. This woman is attractive and uses it to control and get herself ahead. And now she's got herself a man with money and really couldn't be happier about it. This song is more biographic, in the style, in some ways, of the first song in the album, or later songs like Opera Singer.

Concluding Notes

There is misogyny here, but I don't feel that they are unaware of the fact. This album is exploring the mind of a young man whose life is leading him to such vitriolic dislike of women. The songs tell a story about women who he loved, and loved him and then ultimately betray him or leave him for more mature men all speak to his disaffection toward those women. In the middle of the album he rallies himself, makes himself stronger in this next relationship only for it to crash in on him yet again. And then, for the girl to go on to someone vapid and emotionless is a further blow, not just to his ego but his masculinity. And he ends, mournful and teary, singing country waltzes and feeling unsuccessful. This young man is empathized with but his misogyny is clear cut. And I don't really believe that true misogynist white skinny adolescents would really be able to see themselves in empowered, husky black women. The fact that they include this song, in my mind, points to them taking the stance of feminist women who are angry that other women are willing to debase themselves for a man.

If you don't think they understand this, listen to the first song on their next album, Satan is my Motor.

Also, Nugget is meant here to juxtapose Italian Leather Sofa. The protagonist is an idealistic, young semi-socialist who has distaste for politicians and accountants and other men with money. This increases the rift between him and the disaffected businessman who gets the trophy girl. In the end Fashion Nugget seeks to create a sound portrait of a boy who is becoming a misogynist but is decidedly NOT macho. He has his own masculinity, one that is drawn to cars and girls, but he is intensely emotional and is broken by the end.(Not a happy camper) I would say that Cake succeeds in creating such a person while at the same time exploring a number of musical styles that range across much of modern rock and seeks to include more styles into their repertoire.

Personally, this album is not my favorite, it lacks the polish of their later works both musically and emotionally. While I defend their reasons for making this album, the fact remains that it is still rough and grating in some parts. If this album is not fully to your liking pick up Comfort Eagle or Pressure Chief instead.


Jack points out that Perhaps is in fact another cover song. Perhaps was originally a cuban song, brought into English by Doris Day. It would be hard for me to compare Day to Franklin and as I didn't know about it, I am not considering it within the rest of this writeup.

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