Cute And Dirty From All The Vomit

Simply put, Cake Like, a three-piece out of New York, suffer from

Kim Gordon syndrome.

Kerri Kenney tries to stretch her low, atonally growly voice to

perform Sonic Youth's Gordon-like tricks but lacks the attitude and

passion behind the vocal. As a result, lyrics such as "where's my

Latin lover?" just don't have the punch of Gordon's emotionally

charged verses.

Cake Like's second full-length outing, Bruiser Queen, is the

follow-up to their critically acclaimed 1993 debut disc

Delicious. And while all the charm of their debut is not lost,

the quirky songs and sounds of their sophomore album come off

as more annoying than intriguing.

The hype surrounding the band is the all-too-typical "story of a girl

band." Three giddy and pretty friends decide to form a band. To

hell with learning their instruments, these girls wanna rock.

They're sick to death of listening to their musician boyfriends talk

about their bands. So they plug in and turn up the volume

themselves, hoping to drown the guys out. Luckily for them they

live in New York, and already have desirable day jobs, as fashion

designers, working actresses and token MTV funny girls.

So, anyway, they play around town, quickly get signed to a record

label out of Japan, pound out an album of tunes, and are back in

their New York lofts before you can say, "Why can't I be so lucky?"

Their debut cover-art features three wide-eyed, scantily clad,

anemic-looking nymphets, that Nina Hellman, guitarist and backup

vocalist for Cake Like, quipped to Option magazine which

captured the band perfectly, "They're so cute but they can be dirty

too." Right. The first album gets rave reviews and the girls garner a

profile in Rolling Stone -- things are really happening. Now

comes the true test: Can the "Lovely Ladies" (a track title off

Delicious) come through with a second offering that will

continue their relative rise to indie-rock fame? Few of the tracks on

Bruiser Queen seem to support this, and on the whole the

album disappoints.

Back to the Sonic Youth comparisons: The verse vocals on "Mr.

Fireman," the third track on the album, sound uncannily like the

Youth's "Panty Lies" off of Washing Machine. Kenney

drawls out the lyrics -- the highlight phrase as she begs the

fireman to come and put out the flames in her apartment ("Where

are you Mr. Fireman, I want you, I need you... I like you, I like you")

is the curt and concise, "Bring your goddamn truck and some

water."

One of the most successful of the few bearable tracks on the

album is the semi-ballad, "Pretty New". Unlike other songs on the

record which make you cringe and dive for the eject button, "Pretty

New" suits Cake Like's tendency to combine Hellman's high

yodelly backing vocals with Kenney's low growl. The melody is

strong and the chorus is memorable, "Not now mother, not now,

Lord not now." Unfortunately, on tracks such as "Groovy,"

Hellman's meows irritate to the breaking point.

The music the members of Cake Like produce is a simplistic but

confident blend of twisted pop and punk. Thinly distorted guitars

and clean bass lines carry the weight of their style with Jody

Seifert's drumming intruding no more than a fancy metronome.

The music seems straightforward, but when you actually sit back

and take a listen, and try and analyze its structure (if that's what

you choose to do) it's actually quite complex, if only because of its

deviance from traditional pop practice.

This all leads the music to be one of the cooler components of the

disc. If you're unfamiliar with the band, it might be worth a listen if

you're interested in alternatives to the verse/chorus/verse mania

that's gripping rock music these days. Cake Like's musical

constructs are far more witty and original than their lyrics claim to

be.

And no review of this album would be complete without mention of

"The American Woman." Sung completely in French except for the

phrase, "He's got the money," it tells the story of a woman with a

"beautiful life" and everything she could want. Now, I think there's

irony here, but my ninth grade French can't quite hack it. Someone

should tell Kenney that when people don't understand things, they

grow cranky and resentful.

Having listened to the album many times and having liberally

expressed my negative opinion of it here, I must now in a moment

of weakness express my particular fondness for track seven,

"Lorraine's Car." What can I say?

It's a poppy winner with extreme single potential. Hellman leads

us in with an upbeat bass line that's so Pixies-esque you almost

expect Frank Black to step in with "Hips like Cinderella..." but then

Kenney pipes up with "wanna go for a ride?" She answers herself,

"I don't want to go on this joyride Lorraine... / I don't think you

understand/ I'm not having such a good time/ I wanna get out."

Then she starts yelling in her best tough-grrl voice, "Stop the car!/

Just let me out at the next 7-11/ I'm going to be sick all over your

pleather/ all over your pleather."

Now there's some Generation-X, pop-culture, '90s-imagery for you

to chew on. Right. That pretty much sums up the Cake Like

experience -- cute and only a little bit dirty from all the vomit.