Perhaps it’s the curse of Doug Hopkins, but the Gin Blossoms have rarely been able to strike gold on their own, with most of their biggest hits being written by someone outside of the band. First, there was co-founder Hopkins himself, who wrote “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You” before his alcoholism resulting in his dismissal from the group before either song was released. Then there was Marshall Crenshaw, who co-wrote the band’s first Top 10 hit, “Til I Heart It From You,” in 1995. When the Gin Blossoms returned in 2006 with Major Lodge Victory, they partnered up with the Rembrandts’ Danny Wilde, who wrote several of the album’s tracks. Wilde is back on board for No Chocolate Cake, this time in a more active role that finds him producing, co-writing, and playing on most of the album. That’s not meant to diminish the group’s own contributions, which retain much of the spunk from the Gin Blossoms’ mid-‘90s heyday. Robin Wilson’s voice is strong, if a bit nasal at points, and the songs have a familiar heartland hum to them, with Jessie Valenzuela and Scott Johnson filling each one with jangled guitar arpeggios and tasteful solos. None of these tunes can compete with the band’s singles, of course, but that’s not the point, since No Chocolate Cake sets its sights on maintaining the band’s audience rather than reclaiming a spot in the mainstream.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey