Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Motorpsycho - Let Them Eat Cake CD (album) cover



Eclectic Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
4 stars

Ridiculously well instrumented, melancholy, crazy psyche pop.

"Let Them Eat Cake" sounds different to any other Motorpsycho album I've heard. Out of their discography, I'd say it is most similar to the Fishtank session, they did with Jaga Jazzist. But still, "Let Them Eat Cake" is a lot more poppy and less jazzy than "In The Fishtank".

Uncharacteristically, this album is not heavy at all. The overall atmosphere is extremely laidback, melancholy, even a little gloomy. This feeling is conveyed through drifting, croaky vocals that sound laconic most of the time. At least three people share the duty of lead vocalist on this album. It doesn't really matter though, as they all use a similar melancholic, croaky style. The guitar work, that is often acoustic and soft, understated but varied, adds to the melancholic feel. Melodies are important on this album. The vast majority of them are harmonic and beautiful, the vocal melodies often sound deliberately simple.
The album has a slightly hippy and very retro feel to it. It borrows heavily from 60/70 pop music, mainly from psyche influenced bands, but jazzy elements are present, too. Half a dozen bands come to my mind whenever I hear this album, everybody from the Beach Boys and the Beatles to the Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and Brian Eno. I find the album anything but boring though, mainly due to the incredibly varied instrumentation. I heard at least violins, cello, contrabass, trumpet, horn, trombone, saxophone, clavinette, piano and Fender Rhodes. Above, the site lists even more instruments, which I didn't even recognize (or was unsure of).

The opener The Other Fool is a contemplative, mid tempo song that starts out with a beautiful string quartet melody. The strings - as well as trombone and trumpet - continue to accompany electric and acoustic guitar, bass and laconic hippy vocals. The track contains an understated twang guitar solo as a middle part, before it ends in the same vein it began.

Upstairs-downstairs is a very slow, tranquil acoustic ballad. The brass section and strings flood the song with beautiful, soft melodies until the rest of the band becomes quite unimportant.

Big surprise is a melodious ballad that features staccato piano and harmonic singing with a "papapaah" chorus à la Beach Boys. The vocal melody sounds rather simplistic, almost like a children's tune. It is sung like one, too, in a way, that makes clear this was intentional. The track sounds quiet tongue in cheek to me, though some listeners might not like the intentionally amateurish feel to the singing. Even though the song features simple, poppy vocals, it is notably well instrumented (piano, Fender Rhodes and moog, I think) and played.

Walkin' with J is the hardest, rockiest track on the album. A catchy and rocky trombone, lots of harmonic singing, Fender Rhodes and clavinette are featured here. This is the song that sounds most like "classic" Motorpsycho to me. It is still funkier than a typical track, though.

The funky mood continues with Never Let You Out. Clavinette and harmonic singing are employed again. The excellent brass section accompanies a slightly silly song with a sophisticated swing arrangement, and somehow it sounds very fitting.

Whip That Ghost is entirely instrumental and could almost be called Jazz Fusion. The driving rhythm, percussion elements, and funky guitar and piano transport me to the Caribbean every time I listen to this.

Stained glass brings back the calm, tranquil atmosphere of upstairs-downstairs. This track is more minimalist though. A contrabass adds soothing vibrations. Horns are used, but only sparsely. The track is dominated by floating acoustic guitars, before a spacey slide guitar takes up more of the work. The singing is even more croaky and uninterested than usual.

My best friend somehow comes across as extremely melancholy, silly and serious at the same time. Understated guitars dominate the track, the vocal melody sounds simplistic and reminds me of a children's tune again, the "woohoo"s of the choir are extremely cheesy, and the lounge-style jazz piano takes the cake. I have no idea why the piano goes together with the rest of the song, but it works.

30/30 stands out as the most ambient track of the album. It brings Brian Eno to mind, but Post Rock seems to have been an influence as well. The song starts (and ends) with a "noise" section, produced by strings, brass and some kind of gong. After that a "clock" starts ticking, while the strings form a wall of sound, that doesn't move anywhere for a long time. Singing starts up in the same laconic style the album is soaked in. The track picks up sound, as piano and guitar join in. This wall of sound crumbles and gives way for a section of long, haunting brass notes. As the brass section fades away, the clock and string wall start up again, to rise until they quietly explode into the outro-noise.

For me, this is a 4 star album, even though I can imagine that some proggers would rate it lower.
For one thing, some listeners might be bothered by the vocals on this album. Yes, objectively one could say, they sound like stoned hippies who can't sing. To me, it seems like the band tries to emulate the way children would sing. (They do this without using high voices, though.) I can see that some listeners will find this grating and/or amateurish. But they found a vocal style, which fits the album. It goes well with the simple vocal melodies and with the psychedelic feel of most songs. I don't think the vocals clash with the sophisticated instrumentation either. This contrast rather adds to the overall craziness of the record. That's only my personal opinion, of course.
Some people may also feel that the tracks on this album are too short and essentially pop tunes. In my opinion, they may be pop tunes, but only if one took away anything but the core band (drums, vocals, guitar, bass). As long as these songs include the string-, brass- and piano-sections they sound like prog to me. They even sound slightly insane.

To me, these songs sound experimental because of the stark contrast between simple vocal melodies and "amateurish" singing on one hand, and dense instrumentation with good brass and string arrangements on the other. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "Let Them Eat Cake" contains some real jazz, but the contrast is still big enough.)
Why did they want a string quartet to make some psyche pop?
Why did they need an extra pianist along with this big band and big production to record a Beach Boys cover?
I don't know, but they had the right idea. The end result sounds just the right amount of strange to sound brilliant to me.

Report this review (#270327)
Posted Monday, March 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hats of to Motorpsycho for trying something entirely different with each new album. After ending their heavy rock period with the superb 'Trust Us', they didn't try to cash in on its success but instead teamed up with a whole orchestra of violins and horns to bring us an album filled with jazzy psych pop that fans of Syd Barrett and Nick Drake shouldn't miss.

Apart from the 60's inspired songwriting and lust arrangements, also the cleaner vocals are noteworthy, featuring more contributions from guitarist Hans Magnus Ryan's soft and tender voice. But also Bent Saether holds back his grittier side and indulges voluntarily in Beatles alike harmonies and pleasant melodies. My favorites of the album are the moody 'Stained Glass' which reminds me of Ryan Adams (no not Bryan), and the experimental '3030'.

I believe each Motorpsycho album must be met on its own terms and appreciated for what it tries to bring, it's a trait I appreciate in many of my favorite bands and it also lifts Motorpsycho output to a higher level for me. This one may suit my taste less then the previous album but it's certainly not inferior in terms of quality. Not a Prog album but sure one that might interest fans of psych-tinged pop with an experimental edge.

Report this review (#574777)
Posted Friday, November 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Let Them Eat Cake was Motorpsycho's first true foray into pop. For that shocking reason it is probably, to their fans, one of the more famous albums, along with the most ambitious heavy prog offering, Heavy Metal Fruit.

Cake is filled with breezy pop rock songs, fueled by strings, horns, organs, deep bass and a light guitar. Even though Motorpsycho is more known for their heavy stuff, a lot on here is in a mellow mood. For their hyperprolific 20-year output (an album a year, sometimes twice), it is a testament to Motorpsycho that almost all their songs are distinct from one another with very little filler per album. That said, I think that Cake is more famous what they were trying to do than what they actually did, because on later works their pop becomes even more refined. And who can forget the immortal "Lets get some weed and chill out to Pink Floyd" line? I'm only mentioning it passingly, because another reviewer already beat me to it.

Report this review (#1377943)
Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars The turn of a new century marked a new change in Motorpsycho's approach to music. As with every new release of this band, they try a variety of things like new sounds or new approaches in how they want to craft their albums. With this new release, the band was trying to capture a wider audience in their grasp, while still retaining their very psychedelic, and now more progressive flavors of sound. This obviously makes this record their quote on quote "pop" album, but Motorpsycho's pop is not necessarily gonna be as accessible as Yes' or Genesis' pop.

Let Them Eat Cake is a smaller album, not one of their big hour long monuments. It is 45 minutes long and contains 9, 3-6 minute tracks that all feature different approaches to a more pop sound, while keeping up with the band's image. I think this is actually one of the band's strongest albums as a whole. It is not a complete masterpiece by any means, but I find this to be an album that, no matter my mood, or my feelings, I find to be one of the band's most consistent and concrete albums. There are no bad songs on this album, and in fact I think they might be the band's most stable efforts.

The sound found here is very reminiscent of early 70s Prog Rock. I am getting flavors of Gentle Giant and King Crimson within the violins, and some more jazzy elements that groups like Weather Report included in their sound, but in a more Motorpsychoesque aura that is a lot more jammy and rocking. I really enjoy this sort of direction the band is taking, sort of homaging this classic era of Prog music while still keeping up with their sound. You also get some psychedelic pop/rock elements from songs like Big Surprise and Never Let You Out, heck Never Let You Out has a little bit at the start that sounds kinda like a Syd Barrett song. This homage really does let this album grab a hold of me, and most likely newer, more younger fans of Motorpsycho. When people say this is their pop record, I see it more as less of a pop sounding album and more of an album that resonates with pop culture. Obviously Prog is an alternative genre, though that said it is still really highly popular in pop culture. I mean it is a given, bands like Pink Floyd are extremely popular, and around this time TOOL was also going up in popularity and charts, especially since one year after this record was released they'd create Lateralus, which we all know is extremely popular, even to non Progheads.

To me, this album is Motorpsycho's take on the retro Prog scene that The Flower Kings, Echolyn, and Änglagård were experimenting with, and I am all for it. Motorpsycho creating a more contemporary, and jammy approach to that type of sound really does let the music bend and shape to their heart's content.

If I do have to say one issue this album has, it's probably really only the last track of 30/30. It isn't a bad song per say, but I feel as though it could've been a way better ending for this album to take. It kinda makes this album end with a sour whimper than a sweet bang, and when you call your album something related to a sweet dessert and a quote from a monarch, it is a little bad on your part to end the album off with something a bit lackluster.

If I had one word to describe this album, it'd be concrete. It is a very solid record that really has no bad parts aside from the last track, and even then it never sours the experience to where it ruins the album. If you really like the classic 70s sound of Prog and more jammy music, then this album is one that is a must listen, and I think also one that can be a serviceable introduction to the band's forefront. It is an album that shows that Motorpsycho was a lot more progressive than some may think, even in a more pop context.

Report this review (#2857265)
Posted Saturday, December 10, 2022 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yet another stylistic shift with the ever-adventurous musical trio, their eighth studio album release--here trying to imitate many of the late 1960s' psych rock masters.

1. "The Other Fool" (5:40) excellent BEATLES-like song with key orchestral components. (9/10)

2. "Upstairs-Downstairs" (5:12) horns with lazily-strummed acoustic guitars open this one with a long (110-second) intro. When the vocals arrive (really far forward in the mix), I'm quite reminded of the music of COLIN MOULDING and ANDY PARTRIDGE (XTC). (8.875/10)

3. "Big Surprise" (3:36) cute little BEACH BOYS-like song about a breakup. Builds into full band at the one-minute mark with a little more added at the two-minute mark before slowly deconstructing for the final 45 seconds. (8.66667/10)

4. "Walkin' with J." (3:59) horns and meaty opening gives the song a bit of a HENDRIX (bass line)/DENNY LAINE-WINGS combo feel. Great, fun chorus. (8.75/10)

5. "Never Let You Out" (2:46) quirky like a late 1960s Brit psych pop song (not quite The Beatles; more like The Buggles). I very much like the instrumental palette. (8.75/10)

6. "Whip That Ghost (Song for a Bro')" (6:30) shades of future Motorpsycho: a nice instrumental jam song overtly styled after the famous Allman Brothers song "Whipping Post" with a very enjoyable ALLMAN BROTHERS-like guitar sound and style. (8.75/10)

7. "Stained Glass" (6:12) though definitely having a familiar sound and feel to it, I cannot pick up the band or song that this might be imitating (perhaps John Martyn, Richard Thompson, or more Allman Brothers), but it turns out that it accomplishes much as a lovely, delicate little rural folk rock song. (8.875/10)

8. "My Best Friend" (4:21) a nice song on the mellower side of Indie-Folk Rock that sounds kind of like a cross between Scotland's STEALERS WHEEL and THE ALLMAN BROTHERS. I like the calm, almost soporific vocal performance as well as the blues-rock piano beneath it all. (8.75/10)

9. "30/30" (7:21) this one sounds quite a bit like something RADIOHEAD might do with its very creative use of orchestral instruments and synths to create the rather-chamber/classically arranged musical tapestry. (13.375/15)

Total Time: 45:37

Great sound recording and engineering certainly help these mostly-imitative songs please the listeners' ears. Innocuous and pleasant if not presenting anything too ground-breaking.

B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

Report this review (#2943224)
Posted Monday, July 31, 2023 | Review Permalink

MOTORPSYCHO Let Them Eat Cake ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of MOTORPSYCHO Let Them Eat Cake

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.