>I like music, and food. Music that is named after food is even better, and music about food is the best.
The Eco-conscious group Cake, touring Japan this March, takes ska vamps and They Might be Giants’ lyrical sensibilities and meshes them seamlessly in a holy union of relationship quandry and rockin’ horns. I first heard them when I was working in a bike shop. Our boss made us listen to company-approved Muzak during the day, but in the early hours as we unpacked stock we played our own tunes. Steve introduced us to the plaintive folk rock of Citizen Cope, but it was Ross, the redheaded miscreant… er, college student, huge spikes in his ears, a goatee, and an ironic sneer, who brought Cake for everyone to share. I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
The lead singer of Cake, John McCrea, has a weary irony in his voice that makes you forget whatever piddly thing you’re worrying about and throw a little sympathy his way. Their music has appeared on such irony- filled gems as “Orange County” and “Shallow Hall”. Yummy.
Yeah, you may have heard them here and there, but you’re not doing yourself any favors if you’ve only given the nod to the popular hit “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” (from 2001’s “Comfort Eagle”), which got a lot of play on MTV with a quirky video. Give a listen to the aching “Meanwhile, Rick James…”, the country-tinged romp “Stickshifts and Safetybelts”, the naked plea of “No Phone”: No phone, no phone, I just want to be alone today, no phone, no phone.
They also do covers: “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” and an expletive deleted version of “I Will Survive” that rewrites the original into a male rant. In Cake’s world, women have the power- they love, they “friend”, they leave. These guys whine about it but they will survive, hey hey. My iPod runneth over with Cake-y goodness.
The ladies of Cibo Matto (“food madness”) are Japanese, which means funny English is bound to happen once in awhile. But you have to love a band that includes Sean Lennon and features contributions from John Medeski and Billy Martin, and Sebastian Steinberg of Soul Coughing among others. Lead singer, Miho Hatori, has sung back-up for the Beastie Boys and worked with Dan the Automator. Hatori also guests on a track by the Gorillaz: “Left Handed Suzuki Method” has a miraculous back beat over which Hatori speaks a verse in Japanese about the popular music teaching technique and then repeats it in English between violin riffs.
Most of the songs on the 1996 album Viva! La Woman, the group’s first album, are about food. “Birthday Cake”, “Beef Jerky”, and the whimsical “Know Your Chicken”. Each song is a tasty little morsel of lyrical nonsense that wraps up the twin passions of any Japanese girl worth her salt: food and relationships.
Their second effort, 1999’s Stereotype A explored more styles, incorporating r&b crooning, ska horns, and a little rap. But less food. One of my favorite tracks is “Sci-Fi Wasabi”, an ode to NYC by bike:
What’s up B? Wa-sa-bi
I’m searchin’ the city for sci-fi wasabi
The start button has been pushed already
Obi-Wan Kenobi is waiting for me
In Union Square
my wheel needs repair.
The bike lane’s glowing all over the city
The last time I was in NYC I went hunting for wasabi, and found some that was quite good, actually. Not sci-fi though. It’s one of my favorite songs for whenever I go walking in my favorite city.
Here’s a cake recipe with a little bite and a little silliness:
The Unknown Source Lemon Cake
(‘Cuz I don’t know where this recipe came from before I copied it into my notebook.)
Serves several happy people or one very bitter angry one.
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks softened unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
Grated zest of 2 lemons… make it 3 if you’re feeling lucky, punk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk… whole or skim, I don’t care
Preheat the freakin’ oven to 350F. You heard me.
The 9 inch pan should be greased and floured. Prepared. Unlike I was when you stepped on my heart.
Whisk together the dry ingredients like the wind through corn, then set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy like angellic clouds. Should take about 5 minutes on MED HIGH.
Beat in the eggs one at a time. All 4. Until they are blended and the batter is yellowy and smooth.
Then add the zest for tart and the vanilla for sweet. Because this cake is like love for a child- there will be sour times and there will be loving happy times.
At low speed alternate between adding the flour and the milk. Begin and end with the flour as you’d begin and end our courtship with flowers.
Bake in the oven. Let’s say 45 minutes. Check often. Ask the cake how it’s doing. But don’t pressure it. Cakes are sensitive creatures.
If it tells you to screw off, and the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done. Otherwise give it time.
It will be ready soon.
Image of Cake from this one.