Cage The Elephant


Written by: TL on 28/11/2013 18:08:58

When I first started noticing some rising hype around Kentucky quintet Cage The Elephant, I must admit that I wasn't quite convinced by my early forays into their second album "Thank You, Happy Birthday" from 2011. It took a spontaneous excursion to a live show of theirs where I saw just how fiercely they perform, for me to go back and start appreciating the brazen attitudes of the half a dozen great songs they actually do have spread across the mentioned sophomore album and their self-titled debut of 08, but since then, I've counted myself a casual follower of theirs, and hence kept on the lookout for the recently released third album "Melophobia".

If you're not familiar with the band, they play a noisy, off-kilter indie rock with vocals that zig-zag back and forth between lethargy and hysteria and songs that are catchy in their construction despite an often confrontational energy. Calling them an American version of Arctic Monkeys would not be an inaccurate simplification, although the new album "Melophobia" finds the band err.. mellower, making for less of the prior albums' in your face tracks like the Pixies-ish "Aberdeen", the cacophonic "Indy Kids" or the childishly brazen "In One Ear", instead going for a more laid back groove that fans will recognise from a song like "Shake Me Down". The one exception being the album's penultimate track "Teeth", which recalls the rebelliousness of "Indy Kidz", with a buzzing, garage-punk guitar dancing wilder and wilder with a horn section before the song breaks down to a strange, spoken-worded, Eels-ish outro.

"Teeth" is a lone outburst however, on an album full of tracks that align more casually with material from the likes of Cold War Kids or Mystery Jets. Leading single "Come A Little Closer" particularly reminds me of the latter with its recognisable bass-line in the verse and with one of the album's more winning choruses, as does the retro, lullaby-ish "Telescope" which follows directly after it. Meanwhile "Take It Or Leave It" stands out with a Foals-esque muted guitar-signature, while "Spiderhead", "Halo", "Black Widow" and "It's Just Forever" are the closest to matching the prior albums' ruckus, as the band comes outside of "Teeth". "It's Just Forever" further stands out by enlisting The Kills singer Alison "VV" Mosshart to sing guest vocals, although her bad girl voice really doesn't come into it's own until the bridge which she is allowed to open.

Overall though, I've found "Melophobia" to be slightly disappointing. Lyrically "Telescope" is the strongest bid at some interesting content, questioning the wasting of time in a lifestyle occupied with things and frightened of real connections with others, while a pack of the other songs, like "It's Just Forever", "Take It Or Leave It" and "Black Widow" for instance, seem to be pretty basic songs about being hung up on girls that are hard to get, neither offering any particularly profound turns of phrase worthy of raising an eyebrow over. The words simply have a poppy feel to them, like they don't really have much to say, they're just meant to be sung along to, which isolates the record's relatively eclectic blend of nuances as its foremost feature, and in my opinion, those aren't really interesting enough to get the job convincingly or consistently done. In fact the diminishing returns of several playthroughs has inevitably brought me to the stale conclusion that it's all good and well for Cage The Elephant to add nuances to their fun and edgy sound and try to make a record based on catchyness, but if the result is only one proper "hit" in form of "Come A Little Closer" and the rest is merely decent background music, then I honestly think it'll strictly be diehard fans that find gratification on this one.


Download: Come A Little Closer, It's Just Forever
For The Fans Of: Cold War Kids, Arctic Monkeys, Mystery Jets

Release Date 08.10.2013

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