Friday, October 21, 2005

The Cakekitchen

Put Your Foot Inside the Door
I had no idea that the Cakekitchen (aka Kiwi Graeme Jefferies and his European comrades) had put out anything since 1996’s Everything’s Going to Work Out Just Fine, which was released on London’s Freek Records after a few releases on U.S.-based Merge Records. But then, while unexpectantly perusing the New Zealand CD selection at Wellington’s finest, Slow Boat Records, I came across not one but two new (to me) Cakekitchen releases. One is 2003’s “How Can You Be So Blind,” and the other is the brand-new “Put Your Foot Inside the Door.” Apparently Mr Cake has been producing music and distributing it throughout Germany and perhaps elsewhere in the mainland through the Hausmusik label, unbeknownst to Yanks and Kiwis alike. Well, thanks to Graeme’s current one-month sojourn in his home country, at least New Zealanders are able to savour his recent slabs of delight as well as some rare live shows.
“Put Your Foot Inside the Door” benefits from much crisper, fuller production than his mid-90s Merge releases “Stompin Through the Boneyard” and “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” While those albums had some undoubtedly fine songs, the muddiness of the recordings kept the listening pleasure a bit at bay. The classic Flying Nun 4-track (typically owned by Chris Knox) didn’t hold back the jagged ragged sounds of bands like the Clean and Tall Dwarfs, but Cakekitchen’s multilayered approach benefits from technology that actually allows you to hear and appreciate what goes into the many-layered Cake.

This album also benefits from a wide range of soundscapes, drawing on a multitude of instruments and song styles to make this 51+ minute disc anything but a snoozer. Epic ballads like “Voyage from the Sun” are reminiscent of “Greater Windmill Street Blues” from Far from the Sun, stomping pop tunes like “I’m So Glad That You Dropped Out of High School” evoke not only Jonathan Richman’s candy-coated plea to “drop out of B.U.” but also the Cakekitchen’s previous forays into straight-ahead rock like “Tell Me Why You Lie” from Stompin Through the Boneyard. Twisted tunefulness like “Strung Out” and the live “Hop Hop Song” show the somber but quirky shadows in which the Cakekitchen seems to corner the market, while the stuttering honesty of “Hey Mister Won’t You Help Me To Get Back On My Feet Again” and “On the Rocks Again” peel back a layer of cloud from the mystique and reveal Mr Cake as a talented but human, struggling being.

It’s a ride worth taking. With powerful lyrics railing against vacuous consumption and promoting unabashed dream-chasing, coupled with layers of ambitious musicality, the Cakekitchen offers not only a host of sweet baked confections, but a hearty loaf of stunningly spiritual sustenance as well. Queue up for yours at (Hausmusik) (Jim Ebenhoh)