For two weeks in January, Cake held a dubious distinction; its sixth album, “Showroom of Compassion,” debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, but with sales of 44,000 copies that made it the lowest-selling chart-topper ever (until Amos Lee’s “Mission Bell” came out two weeks later).
But that wasn’t what made it an odd experience for frontman John McCrea and his bandmates.
“It felt really strange,” notes McCrea, 45, who co-founded Cake in 1991 in Sacramento, Calif. “Cake’s not supposed to be No. 1, I think, so it was odd. It kinda made me want to buy one of those big foam hands with ‘We’re No. 1!’ on it or something.
“But I was thrilled that we weren’t squashed like a bug when we decided to release our album independently — not just independently, but on our own (Upbeat) label. We just didn’t have faith we would be noticed, but it turned out all right.”
And, McCrea adds, the distinction of being the lowest-selling No. 1 has faded while the quintet’s happiness with “Showroom of Compassion” — its first new release in seven years — has only grown.
“It doesn’t matter very much if you think the work that you did was worthy of your own appreciation,” McCrea says. “So (being No. 1) was a very fleeting thing, and the main point is that if you listen to the album five years from now, your shoulders are not going to be tightening up.
“And the way I look at it is (44,000) is about the same number that we sold in the first week of our last studio album, so in an industry that in general had seven years of precipitous decline, our audience was still there and went out and bought an album they trusted was not just one song and a bunch of filler. That, for me, is an emotional thing.”
Cake performs Wednesday, May 18, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are sold out. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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