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4Play: Cake, Soundgarden, Wire, The Go! Team

Kristi Kates - March 7th, 2011
Cake - Showroom of Compassion - Upbeat/ILG
Cake’s latest album - their first since 2004 - sounds pretty much like… their last album in 2004. This isn’t a bad thing. It just means that Cake still pretty much sounds like Cake, complete with horns, punchy guitars, callback harmonies, and John McCrea’s oft-acerbic, wry vocal stylings. There’s nothing particularly edgy here, but the songs are definitely catchy, from the “Never There”-reminiscent “Sick of You,” “Federal Funding,” and “Got to Move” to their left-field cover of Frank Sinatra’s “What’s Now is Now” to the country-inflected “Bound Away.” Groundbreaking, no - entertaining, yes.




Soundgarden - Live on I-5 - A&M
Bringing together a wide range of live Soundgarden tracks from one of the band’s 1996 tour jaunts (and named after a well-trodden West Coast highway), this collection adds 2 popular covers (The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and The Stooge’s Search and Destroy) to a track listing that already includes plenty of songs SG fans will be happy to hear, from live band versions of “Spoonman” and “Burden in My Hand” to a solo Chris Cornell rendition of “Black Hole Sun.” Recorded in mobile fashion via a 24-track truck onto 2” tape, it’s a definitive capture of the band at their near best.




Wire - Red Barked Tree - PF
Punky art-rockers Wire rely a lot on their guitars on their latest album, unfortunately to the detriment of some of their songs’ hooks. While the band’s more accessible tunes are just that - far more accessible than the rest of the album - they skew that balance with some otherwise forgettable songs that don’t even really sound like the band themselves. “Adapt” and “Please Take” and among the standouts, with their relative inventiveness and more energetic rhythms, while “Now Was” and “Smash” really aren’t smashes at all. Production isn’t at its best here, either, with abrasive, compressed mastering that overrides the vocals far too often.



The Go! Team - Rolling Blackouts - Memphis
Hip-hop, electro rock, garage pop, rap - it’s difficult to classify The Go! Team as any one genre, whirling as they do through so many different sounds and influences. Opener “T.O.R.N.A.D.O” is a bit grating and insistent at first listen, but the album quickly gets over its own shock value and moves on to more listenable numbers such as the wackily indie-commercial “Ready to Go Steady,” the Spice-Girls-reminiscent “Buy Nothing Day,” the interestingly-arranged (are those kettle drums? Where did the chorus just disappear to?) “Back Like 8-Track,“ and the ‘70s-trip that is the title track.


 
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