lit90s

Record deals were being handed out like Halloween candy to anything remotely resembling “alternative” in the post-Nirvana ’90s. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a band like art/math rockers Shudder to Think being signed to a conglomerate like Sony, but heck, they put out two albums on Epic Records.

Not only did Shudder to Think squeeze out two major-label discs during the alt-rock feeding frenzy, Shudder lead singer Craig Werden also produced Bruiser Queen, the second full-length album from Cake Like, an all-female trio fronted by Kerri Kenney, probably best known for her role on Reno 911! But at the time of Bruiser Queen‘s release in 1997, she was a cast member on Comedy Central’s short-lived Viva Variety.

Signed to Neil Young’s Vapor label at the suggestion of Ric Ocasek, Cake Like trafficked in Pixies-ish melodies, with some Sonic Youth dissonance thrown in for good measure. Kenney’s near constant presence on MTV a few years earlier on The State gave the trio an inroad to some light rotation on Alternative Nation and 120 Minutes, with both shows airing the video for “Lorraine’s Car” (download).

How many members of the State can you spot, kids? Look closely. There are more than you think:

I love that video. The rest of Bruiser Queen was a varied affair, as artier tracks shared space with short pop blasts, no song topping out over three minutes or so. While a couple of songs betrayed their inspirations quite overtly, like the very Hole-like “Wendy” (download), for example, they never crossed over into offensiveness. And just to prove that money was being thrown pell-mell at these bands, there was a video shot for “Wendy” to further promote the album:

Bruiser Queen didn’t do much business, however. It was too strange for “alternative radio,” which found even the Pixies and Sonic Youth too strange, and by the late ’90s college radio wasn’t exactly the trendsetter it once was. Cake Like released one more album before Kenney hit the road for Los Angeles in 1999, leaving the band behind. She ended up on the vastly underratedThe Ellen Show (the CBS sitcom where Ellen was a guidance counselor) in 2001, and Cake Like ended up on the shelf. Surprisingly, Bruiser Queen remains in print, so snatch it up!

Neither single charted.

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