album reviews

B-Sides and Rarities
Upbeat Records (2007)

By definition, B-side compilations tend to be unessential releases: not a great starting point for new listeners and not a cohesive collection for longtime fans. Cake's recent "B-Sides and Rarities" doesn't break that mold, but the covers-heavy album does allow the band to indulge in some rather un-Cake-like songs.

By far the strongest is a take on Black Sabbath's "War Pigs." Cake's version doesn't stray too far from the original, but that's not a bad thing: Singer John McCrea abandons his typical sing-speak to channel Ozzy Osbourne's venomous yowl. Elsewhere, Cake takes on country (Buck Owens's "Excuse Me, I Think I've Got a Heartache"), classic crooning pop (Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night"), soul (a very Cake-ified version of Barry White's "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up") and -- capturing the group's whimsy -- the Muppets tune "Mahna, Mahna."

If "B-Sides" had ended with the covers, Cake would have had a solid EP that would have nicely complemented the group's original recordings. Instead, the band filled out the album with several live tracks, featuring originals (including a fairly uninspired version of "Short Skirt, Long Jacket") and a cover, another version of "War Pigs," this time in concert with Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips. The additions may dilute the overall strength of the collection, but there are still enough charming nuggets to make this album less disposable than the typical rarities compilation.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 7 December 2007, Page WE06
.: B-Sides and Rarities on