's attempt to make a smug- and irony-free album, the band's third release does hold back the barbs a bit more than usual, even if they do fall back into familiar territory: postmodern takes on postmodern life. Flipping between earnest alt-rock rhythms and jittery, funky jazz, Prolonging the Magic
works best when Cake
lay on the irony extra heavy, or when they make their sober ambitions mesh slightly with the type of smart-ass pop they've based a career on (like "Never There"). At least they seem to realize their place in the alt-rock universe as a novelty band with chops, counteracting the genre's overwhelming seriousness with a light dose of heavy-handed yuks.