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15 Years Ago: Cake Keep Up Their Streak With ‘Comfort Eagle’

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Four albums in to their lengthy career, and it’s safe to say that Cake were pretty comfortable when making Comfort Eagle. The disc, which dropped on July 24, 2001, marked their major label debut on Columbia Records after a series of releases on defunct indie Capricorn — and continued the eccentric band’s string of quirky-but-cool discs.

The centerpiece of the album was definitely first single “Short Skirt/Long Jacket,” a fun, funky number with an elusive meaning that still confounds fans to this day. “I think it was inspired by seeing somebody with those two oppositional fashion gestures,” singer John McCrea matter-of-factly told Rolling Stone, seemingly trying to clear things up but probably causing more questions than answers.

“And that’s sort of what the song is about, directly oppositional forces housed within the same mechanism or personage. I saw this woman as trying to arrive at balance — the skirt going up and the jacket going down,” he added. The song was Cake’s third single in the Top 10 of the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and first since “Never There” topped it in 1998.

The single’s video was a hit as well, ultimately becoming one of the band’s most memorable. The clip is composed entirely of footage showing people listening to the song on headphones and capturing their reactions, whether they be enthusiastic, critical, apathetic or whatever. “Mainly, the video was a desperate attempt on my part to not have to make a music video,” McCrea admitted. “I didn’t want to have five white guys lip-syncing and pretending to play instruments in an urban-decay setting. So I just figured maybe we should try turning the camera around. For some reason, I’m interested in that.”

There’s more to Comfort Eagle than the first hit, of course — like, for example, follow-up singles “Arco Arena” and “Love You Madly,” although neither of those tunes managed to chart. The album only scored gold certification after debuting at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 chart, which at the time was their highest placement.

Regardless, Comfort Eagle holds up — and even stands out — if for nothing more than “Short Skirt/Long Jacket.” For some reason, with Cake it’s always those confusing tunes that people remember — and still have a taste for, more than a decade later.

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