Cage The Elephant

Tell Me I'm Pretty

Written by: TL on 31/12/2015 13:16:17

Kentucky-based indie rock'n'rollers Cage The Elephant have been growing a name for themselves since their brazen, self-titled 08' debut, relying heavily on their energetic live performances, which have landed them support slots for some massive rock names, including Queens Of The Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Muse and The Black Keys. Yet on their 2013 effort "Melophobia" there wasn't all that much to get excited by, prompting some concerns ahead of the new album "Tell Me I'm Pretty", which just came out this month.

The quartet plays a retrospective brand of laid back rock'n'roll, which makes you feel like they have been listening to the same records as British contemporaries like Arctic Monkeys, and particularly the vocals of frontman Matthew Shultz has rambled flatness to them that makes you suspect that Mick Jagger is a likely source of inspiration. Listening to them gives you that familiar feeling of a band that wants to stay true to some idea of an 'original' rock'n'roll as it was played in the 60s - on one hand it is timeless, but for the same reason there are countless bands doing varieties of this, meaning that what a band like Cage The Elephant lives and dies by, on record at least, is simply whether they have strong enough songs to put them in contention with your Arctic Monkeys, your Vaccines, your Libertines and so on.

And to be honest, "Tell Me I'm Pretty" comes off as even more lacklustre at this than already mediocre "Melophobia". The songs here are conventional to the point where each little guitar melody or beat sounds so heard before that they feel like filler, and you find yourself wondering what is meant to be a given track's signature. What are we listening for? What have Cage The Elephant come up with to impress us? The answer seems to simply be some moderately catchy, repetitive choruses - making the album feel like mellow pop music dressed up in vintage rock-clothing. And the problem is that there's no "Crying Lightning" here - No "Teenage Idol" or "Golden Touch" and certainly no "In One Ear" or "Shake Me Down".

The closest Cage The Elephant comes is perhaps in "Punchin' Bag", which arrives towards the end of the, which is a mildly threatening ditty about looking out for a badass woman who won't take no abuse: Heaven help ya', she's coming for you / Heaven help ya', the girl likes to fight / Afraid of nothing and she carries a knife / She said oh no, I'm not your punchin' bag!" OK, that is pretty catchy, but there's no meat on the bones, there's little compelling melody, and while a bit of cymbals and electric guitar may have been enough to get teens rockin' like there was no tomorrow in the 60s, these days even kids are easily exposed to much wilder music, so relying on the 'rebellious rock energy' of this is just weak.

It is hard to imagine then, who would get particularly excited listening to "Tell Me I'm Pretty" in 2015. Maybe if you're all about shopping for second-hand vintage clothing and vinyl, and pining with faux-nostalgia for some retro era you are too young to have been part of. But even then, you could also be listening to Arctic Monkeys. You could dig out one of the first two Razorlight albums. Hell, you could put on anything by little Denmark's own Go Go Berlin. As it is these days, Cage The Elephant do not flash the ideas to compete with either of these, as "Tell Me I'm Pretty" is painfully mediocre, and frankly, boring.


Download: Punchin' Bag, Sweetie Little Jean
For The Fans Of: Arctic Monkeys, Cold War Kids, The Vaccines, Razorlight

Release date 18.12.2015
RCA Records

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