Happy Monday, internet. While winter arrived in Westeros last night, here in the real world, we’re already halfway through April, and ready to bring you another week of music.
Last week we looked at a collection of classic rock songs, and for this week we’ll be changing up genres once again. Except this time, with an extra twist.
For the past couple months, I’ve been picking a different genre to cover for this series each week. It’s worked well so far, but I’ve been craving some more variety, to be honest. So for this week, I want to look at music that blends different genres, or defies them all together. Because why have more of the same?
That’s why today’s song of the day comes from Cake, an American alternative band that blends new wave, jazz, funk, folk, hip hop, and more into their sound. You might know them from their single, “Short Skirt, Long Jacket”, which played as the theme song for NBC’s “Chuck”. Our song today, “Comfort Eagle”, shares the same album.
Cake released their fourth album, “Comfort Eagle” in 2001 on Columbia Records, and it debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200. Despite being the eponymous track, “Comfort Eagle” was not one of the three singles released with the album. And it’s probably just as good that it wasn’t. It’s probably not the strongest song on the album, but it is one of my favorites.
In “Comfort Eagle”, Cake fuses a mild, somewhat grungy rock with a dash of Indian flavor. There’s enough going on to hold your interest, between the driving fuzz guitar, the synth on a sitar setting, and droning background vocals with accompanying beat and hand claps.
As for the actual lyrics and meaning behind the song, there will always be room for interpretation. Here’s just one way to look at it.
In “Comfort Eagle”, Cake uses an extended metaphor to attack the music industry for trying to shape bands into products. Using the spread and advertisement of organized religion, they liken their fans to zealots.
Then there’s the portrayal of a music industry professional, as someone who is trying to look and act like he’s in it for the music, but is really in it for the money.
“Now his hat is on backwards
He can show you his tattoos
He is in the music business
He is calling you “DUDE!””
The first two stanzas start with the same phrase, “We are building a religion”, firmly cementing the metaphor in place. As Cake lyrics go, there are a decent number of ironic, non-sequitur lines to keep you wondering what the song is really about. But rather than misdirects, these can be seen as additional support beams that hold up the metaphor.
Here’s one, for example, in a stanza that comes in the second half of the song.
“Some people drink Pepsi
Some people drink Coke
The wacky morning DJ
Says democracy’s a joke”
Here we see a second metaphor, this one targeting politics. Pepsi and Coke are two identical drinks that taste the same, but most people choose one “team” over another. I’m not saying that our two political parties are identical in the same way. But Cake seems to be suggesting that the choice between the two is as trivial as your choice of soft drinks. Maybe this was the case in 2001, but I’m not so sure anymore.
There’s more in the lyrics to dig into, if you’re so inclined. But that pretty much wraps up our discussion. Truth be told, I liked this album when I first listened to it (on repeat for two weeks in high school), but I still never bothered to look into any of their other albums. I can’t say whether this was because Cake didn’t impress me enough, or if I just forgot about them altogether.
I’m not here trying to convince you of anything. Listen to Cake, and love them or hate them, it’s really no difference to me. What I find interesting is taking second looks at songs I haven’t heard in years, and reevaluating how I feel about them. If that floats your boat, we should get along fine.
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