There is no fear of a sophomore slump for Cake, the witty rock quintet from Sacramento, Calif., that mocked the music industry last year with the modern-rock favorite “Rock ‘N’ Roll Lifestyle.”
Singer-guitarist John McCrea wouldn’t have it any other way.
“A lot of times, sophomore albums are difficult because the first album was recorded within one sort of context of perhaps the studio or power dynamics or producing,” he said recently. “Then with the second album, suddenly everything’s different. You’re in a more expensive studio or maybe you have a strange producer.
“I don’t think it was difficult for us because we kind of went ahead and did the same thing, self-producing and recording in our hometown of Sacramento, the almond capital of the entire world. We didn’t fly somewhere like New York or have some fancy-pants producer impose his production stylings on us.”
The simple, economical approach works wonders on Cake’s second Capricorn disc, “Fashion Nugget,” released Sept. 17. In many ways, it outshines the group’s ’95 debut, “Motorcade of Generosity,” incorporating vivid lyrics and sublime melodies with odd musical hybrids on cuts such as “The Distance” (the first single), “Daria,” “Race Car Ya-Ya’s” and “Italian Leather Sofa.”
McCrea says he and band members Greg Brown (guitar), Victor Damiani (bass), Vince di Fiore (trumpet) and drummer Todd Roper put a lot of sweat into this one.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking when you don’t know whether you’re going to have a good album or not,” he said. “For me, I have a lot to do with producing our records, like the others in the band. I don’t dream normal dreams when we’re in the process of recording. I dream about notes, I dream about what tones we use.
“If I do have other people in my dreams during this period, it’s only to ask them what they think of a certain song. ‘Is the guitar too loud?’ It leaves you kind of tired, but it’s sort of a good tired.”
Even a foray into cover versions (Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes”) doesn’t distract from the album’s adventurous routes.
Not bad for a group that McCrea admits feared becoming a one-hit wonder last year.
“That was on our mind all the time,” he said. “That’s why we didn’t want to release (‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Lifestyle’) as a single. We caused ourselves a lot of stress by letting that happen. By the same token, a lot of people who like our band have come up to me and have said that that’s their least favorite song.
“I would like to think our band puts out some CDs that are pretty solid. You can listen to them from start to finish and enjoy yourself all the way through. That’s the way this album feels.”
BWF (before we forget): “Fashion Nugget” reached No. 36 on Billboard’s pop chart and was awarded a platinum record for sales of more than 1 million.