Now, for the first time since their 1994 debut album, the members of Cake find themselves in a position where they must go the distance by themselves. They have joined the ranks of the humbling and sprawling independent music universe, where the pressure to perform comes from within, and record sales are rarely assigned an element on the periodic table. Cake's January release, Showroom of Compassion, is on the band's own Upbeat Records, and so far, sales are good. At the end of January, the album was No. 25 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
Defying Age with Smith Westerns: Pretty much the first thing anyone ever says about Smith Westerns is that the band members are young. We're gonna start there, too, but instead of the usual, "Can you believe these kids are 19 and 20 and they make massively melodic power-pop?" let's make something clear: Dye It Blonde, the Chicago four-piece's second album, sounds tremendous, period. It sounds youthful -- "Weekends are never fun unless you're around, too," yelps the chorus of the opening track -- but its sprightly exuberance serves mostly as a sweetener to pop-rock so shrewdly constructed and melodically ambitious that it's hard to believe these kids -- sorry, dudes -- picked up instruments only a few years ago. Perhaps 15-year-olds have written better hooks than those here, but certainly there are famous 50-year-old rockers who haven't. For Smith Westerns, age isn't a liability, it's an exclamation point.