I can’t remember exactly how it came to be and at what points but for periods during our first years in Ottawa, Victoria’s mother loaned us one of her cars, a green cavalier. It had a tape deck in it but I only drove it to work irregularly so I rarely had tapes in the car. Thus, those early years here was probably one of the last periods in which I listened to the radio with any regularity. It didn’t take long before I found the city’s alternative rock station, which at the time was X FM (101.1, I think), and I likely found it with this particular song, Cake’s “Short skirt/long jacket”. Why do I think that? Because I feel like it was played on every morning that I commuted into the Enbridge call centre, my job at the time.
Cake is definitely one of those bands whose sound makes it easy to identify them. Ever since I first discovered the band with their raucous cover of “I will survive”, it never mattered if it was a song I had never heard before, whenever I came across something on the radio, whether at work, in the car, or in a store, I would smile and stop to listen to the rest. There’s always a heavy focus on the beat and a funky bass line, we usually get an explosion of trumpet, a rarity in rock music, and frontman John McCrea’s deep and deadpan sing/speak vocals. I loved all their singles through the latter part of the 90s but it wasn’t until this particular song that I finally declared myself a fan and went out to get one of their albums: “Comfort eagle”.
“Short skirt/long jacket” was the first single to be released off said album. It is the best of Cake, starting with that blare of trumpet, danceable drums and jumping bass, the rattle of vibraslap and regimented backing vocals. And John McCrea reading off a shopping list of attributes that he seemingly wants in girl but as the list gets longer, the girl gets more and more unattainable. This seems to be more the message to me: wants and desires and how they are always changing, making it all so impossible.
“She’s changing her name
From Kitty to Karen
She’s trading her MG for a white Chrysler LeBaron
I want a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket.”
Fittingly, this was their final song of the night, the first and only time I saw them live, a few years ago at Toronto Urban Roots Festival, having invited Toronto’s Choir! Choir! Choir! up on stage with them, making the song a riotous party, and in the process, I think, making fans of my concert buddies Tim and Mark, as well as everyone else in the audience.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.