One of my guilty pleasures is a musical attitude inspired by the melodic guitar and pop melodies of the sixties, and a formal revival in the eighties, re-popularising its name in various pockets of the nineties. Many of my favourite groups fall into the jangle pop movement, such as R.E.M., Guster, The Rembrandts, and of course, Gin Blossoms. The modern day music industry is increasingly dependent on synthetic sounds, so hearing an album that still adheres to the melodies that summarise the age of wide-leg pants and the sitcom “Friends” is a great respite.
Jangle pop band Gin Blossoms released their fifth full-length studio album this year. “No Chocolate Cake” contains twelve fresh tracks brewed and spun four years after “Major Lodge Victory”. Long-time Gin Blossoms fans and fans of their singles can rejoice over their comeback. Unfortunately, it is difficult to penetrate a market that has long veered from a musical mentality where heartbreak and the transformation into adulthood can be wholly articulated with chiming guitars.
“No Chocolate Cake” introduced itself to me through its first single, “Miss Disarray”. It is a powerful enough song to make a strong impression for the album. The second mellower song, “Somewhere Tonight”, is the song that intensified my anticipation for the album drop. Listening to the full album in proper sequence seemed to rapidly taper out the excitement, though. Their 2006 effort, “Major Lodge Victory”, created far more of an impression with me. Granted, it was their first album in over ten years, and they couldn’t afford to be lax about its production. However, with additional listens, “No Chocolate Cake” grew on me — but, not in a “chocolate cake to the hips” type of growth, though.
Track List Run-Down
- Don’t Change for Me: A percussion-heavy number kick-starts “No Chocolate Cake”. “Don’t Change for Me” is a much evolved sound in comparison to the trademark Gin Blossoms music, and a strong introduction for the album.
- I Don’t Want to Lose You Now: Quickly mellowing out, “I Don’t Want to Lose You Now” contains some of the earlier recognisable sounds of Gin Blossoms. Lyrically, it confronts the pain of separation in young love, a theme previously visited in one of their famous songs, “Found Out About You”.
- Miss Disarray: The first single of “No Chocolate Cake”, “Miss Disarray”, is a strong track that contains a melodically familiar feel. It also sounds like a song that could have fit perfectly in their previous album, “Major Lodge Victory”.
- Wave Bye Bye: The lyrics of the jangle pop music are pretty articulate with music about loss, and regret, yet still maintaining an beauty to the song. “Wave Bye Bye” is an of example of such a gem, and it is one of my favourite tracks of “No Chocolate Cake”. The song itself is sad, but the harmonious guitars and vocals are cathartic instead of encouraging the listener to plunge themselves into despair.
- I’m Ready: This is one of the album’s slightly anthem-heavy tracks. “I’m Ready” starts lightly, but it doesn’t take long to give into the head-bobbing melody. The bridge alone would make this track sound great live.
- Somewhere Tonight: “Somewhere Tonight” is the second track dropped by the band shortly before the album drop, and my other favourite song. The track bears much of the Gin Blossoms sound native to their work in the nineties, and is relatively comparable to their 1995 enduring radio hit, “Til I Hear It From You”.
- Go Crybaby: In spite of what the song title may imply, “Go Crybaby” has an upbeat melody and back-up vocals.
- If You’ll Be Mine: One of their mellowest numbers in the album, “If You’ll Be Mine” is a serenade with a slightly more mature sound.
- Dead or Alive on the 405: Employing horns to give the track a classic touch, “Dead or Alive on the 405” sounds like it originates from a few decades prior to the high point of jangle pop — perhaps the decade in which jangle pop’s influences were conceived and born.
- Something Real: “Something Real” is familiarly Gin Blossoms in terms of sound, and it can be placed in the same music league to “Somewhere Tonight”.
- Goin’ to California: The closing song of “No Chocolate Cake” provides a refreshing last track. Musically, it sounds like the type of song appropriate for a light-hearted film with a happy ending, wherein the characters drive along a open road leading towards the horizon — or California, contextually — the credits rolling once their scale is miniscule on the screen.
“No Chocolate Cake” is a good Gin Blossoms album, and recommended for anyone who had been a fan at any point in their lives. Though it isn’t one of my favourites, “No Chocolate Cake” is a musical testament that the band still manages to produce music with an evolved presence, while careful not to alienate the fans who have hung to their every lyric. My only hope is that it doesn’t take as long as four years — or worse, ten — before another album drop.