Song 206: Cake, “Let Me Go” (1998)

Cake-Prolonging_The_Magic-Frontal

Apparently the Cake record Prolonging the Magic wasn’t well-reviewed when it came out…? That surprises me, because it’s my favorite of theirs, and one of my favorite records in general. The songs are really good, and singer John McCrea, with his patented “awwww yeah, awwww no,” is in fine form. Maybe critics just wanted more songs like “The Distance.” I love that song, but these songs aren’t quite like that.

So what are these songs like? There’s a sweetness to them, as if the band was trying to reach past their deadpan reputation for something deeper, something more mature. Case in point: “Let Me Go,” a love song whose verses are all about how a particular woman stands out from the others. The chorus is a response: give me a little space, treat me like a person, and I’ll want you more. Contrasting the guy’s romantic, idealized notion of the woman and the actual woman is an interesting and admirable idea.

And in many ways, it’s also a funny idea. A lot of songwriters have their “she’s so amazing; how much longer can I wait for her?” songs, but how many have that woman tell the narrator that it’s all a little too much, that he needs to back off? In the chorus? But that’s Cake for you.

Here’s what’s also like Cake: that marvelously spare sound, driven by chug-a-chug guitars, a plaintive trumpet, and McCrea’s matter-of-fact voice sing-speaking lyrics set to beautiful melodies. It’s a formula that’s served them well for 22 years, and I’m eager to see what they do next.

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