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Friday, March 16, 2012

Cake -- Fashion Nugget

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8/10

Warning: There are two stories before I even get to this review.
The first is this:
Coming of age at the end of the nineties was awesome.  Not only was it the end of a century, but the end of a millennium. As such, a bit of reflection tended to seep into everything.  People most likely started making more lists.  But usefully, that reflection burrowed its way into some of the music being made at that time, as well. Portishead managed to somehow fuse good vibes with a nightmare mash of history.  Moby injected ancient gospel songs into his ethereal dance music. Cake also put their own spin on musical curation--but I'll get to that in a second.
I didn't get a car until the end of 1998, so as a sixteen year old in late 1997, I had to catch rides with a friend to and from basketball practice.  This friend's mom was kind enough to let me hang out at their house for the two hour period between class and basketball. More importantly to today, that friend was kind enough to play Cake's Fashion Nugget every day in his beat up bronco that sometimes randomly stalled during the twenty minute drive to his house (the hour or so at his house was just long enough for us to watch our own edit of Braveheart, aka Braveheart: The Awesome Version aka Braveheart: People Getting Hit In the Helmet with a Battle Hammer for an Hour).
The first organ note Fashion Nugget's opening track, "Frank Sinatra," hints at the retro awesomeness to come. The big drum beat comes next, then old Nancy Sinatra-style spy guitar, and finally the most important pieces to the sound of the entire album: the trumpet and John McCrea's conversational singing.
We know of an ancient radiation
That haunts dismembered constellations 
A faintly glimmering radio station 
While Frank Sinatra sings stormy weather 
The flies and spiders get along together 
Cobwebs fall on an old skipping record
There's also a room filled with old Chinese lamps and an old man collecting stamps who doesn't care at all about progress. The feeling of the past being inescapable, things that happened sixty years ago floating infinitely on through the depths of space is about as cool as possible. The music video is fittingly awesome:

The best tracks on Fashion Nugget all have this timeless feeling (which ironically could only have been conceived at the end of time, aka the 1990's).  They are so cool that you almost don't want not cool people to know about them.  My buddy's love affair with this album ended after we had to give another kid a ride.  My friend thought this kid was really lame, so when the poor not hip freshman said, "This is really good," and started singing along to our Cake album, my friend promptly ejected the CD, put it back in its case, and never played it again.
When I eventually got Fashion Nugget for myself, I realized that my friend had been skipping tracks.  The whole album just has a little too much padding. Fashion Nugget starts to wear out its welcome a bit by track nine, "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps"...but it has fourteen tracks.  While there are good songs after track nine, and the whole thing is a solid, highly enjoyable eight out of ten, my buddy's leaner version worked better.
In fact, his track listing would have made for a near perfect album. In honor of him introducing me to Cake, here is his track listing, followed by that of the actual album.

Fashion Nugget (Aaron Crousillac Edit*)
 1. Frank Sinatra
2. The Distance
3. Friend Is a Four Letter Word
4. Open Book
5. Daria
6. Race Car Ya-Yas
7. I Will Survive (Yes, it's a cover, and it's better than the original)
8. Nugget
9. Italian Leather Sofa

Fashion Nugget, Official Version
1996 Volcano Records
1.  Frank Sinatra 4:01
2.  The Distance 3:00
3.  Friend Is a Four Letter Word 3:22
4.  Open Book 3:44
5.  Daria 3:44
6.  Race Car Ya-Yas 1:21
7.  I Will Survive 5:10
8.  Stickshifts and Safetybelts 2:09
9.  Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps 2:24
10.  It's Coming Down 3:44
11.  Nugget 3:58
12.  She'll Come Back to Me 2:24
13.  Italian Leather Sofa 5:52
14.  Sad Songs and Waltzes 3:15

*Dude, we need to hang out!

1 comment:

Neal said...

First heard "The Distance" on the car radio, oddly enough, and it's on of my favorite songs. It doesn't have loads and loads of meaning (some guy is really, really focused!), it's just fun to listen to, particularly if you're driving. I think I basically have a leaned up version of this album as well, as I didn't like all the songs on the album enough to download the whole thing.

And I (and Jessica, I know, since she introduced me to it) both agree that the cover of "I Survive" is one of those rare covers that is better than the original. Good stuff.