Robert McKnight/Courtesy of the artist
In "Teenage Pregnancy," the genre-less band Cake addresses its topic using only the emotional tug of a haunting melody.
In "Teenage Pregnancy," the genre-less band Cake addresses its topic using only the emotional tug of a haunting melody. Robert McKnight/Courtesy of the artist
Song: "Teenage Pregnancy"
CD: Showroom of Compassion
"Teenage Pregnancy" isn't exactly an enticing name for a song, and it's a puzzling name for a song without words. So what's Cake trying to achieve with this track from its forthcoming new album, Showroom of Compassion?
A solo piano opens by borrowing from "Moonlight Sonata," then eases into a melancholy melody supported by the left hand's series of arpeggios. The vibe is as tentative as a child's first solo at a piano recital. Then comes the build-up: buzzy organ (sounding at times like a merry-go-round's soundtrack, at times like an ominous harbinger of tragedy), fuzzy electric guitar, clear-throated trumpet and a few distraught human shouts in the background. Throughout the song, the winsome opening melody keeps returning, as the intensity rises, then fades, then returns again.
Nearly 20 years old, Cake has dedicated itself to what it calls an "anti-genre, music-first approach," drawing from whatever musical traditions its members like — a philosophy reflected throughout the unexpected mélange of sounds in "Teenage Pregnancy."
The title invites the question: Does this lyric-free composition have a point of view about its topic? The answer from Cake vocalist, composer and keyboardist John McRea: "There is indeed a connection between the music and the title, especially in that there is much pulling between opposites, so I thought the title worked quite well." The emotional tug of that haunting melody also plays well off the album title: "Teenage Pregnancy" is a showpiece of compassion.