Los Angeles – When it comes to the world of mainstream alternative rock n roll, it is difficult to find a band that does it better than Cage The Elephant. While it is true that the quality of artists featured on your local modern rock station has been slightly improved over the last five years, few manage to mix underground influences with a pop songwriting template that this Bowling Green, KY quintet is capable of. The band’s earlier releases, Melophobia and Thank You, Happy Birthday spawned some of the most original, and most importantly, unavoidably infectious singles of the last decade. Matthew Shultz, Brad Shultz, Jared Champion, Daniel Tichenor, Matthan Minster, and Nick Bockrath continue that trend with Tell Me I’m Pretty, the band’s fourth studio album and second on RCA.
Cage the Elephant has always had a strong garage-rock influence, although it always felt more like a subtle guidepost for the band as opposed to a full-on stylistic template. With the decision to use Dan Auerbach as the producer on Tell Me I’m Pretty, that has changed. The first single, “Mess Around”, is a perfect example of the shifts that occurred with the influential touch of Auerbach. The song’s mostly wordless, organ-bolstered, fuzzy-riffed chorus has a melody that directly descends from the Black Keys’ “Gold On the Ceiling” or “Tighten Up” while the verse has jangly guitar chords and a vocal style that sounds directly pulled from The Black Lips’ Good Bad Not Evil.
Further exemplifying this newfound influence is “Cold Cold Cold”. The song eschews most of the radio-friendliness of “Mess Around” and its big, hooky chorus. Instead, the song dives deeper into the surf-y, jangling, chanting, hand-clapping sounds of mid-career Black Lips releases. The second single released in anticipation of Tell Me I’m Pretty is “Too Late to Say Goodbye”, a song that is destined to achieve the kind of popular success that “Shake Me Down” brought the band on 2011’s Thank You, Happy Birthday or “Come a Little Closer” on 2013’s Melophobia. Other moments take a more laid-back, subdued approach to songwriting. “How Are You True” is a perfect example of this quieter dynamic, with lightly strummed acoustic guitars and psychedelic studio effects.
The fuzz comes out for joyously lilting “That’s Right”, a track that simply blasts through the speakers in a manner similar to many bands signed to the In The Red or Castleface record labels, leading figures of the underground psych-pop revolution. In fact, throughout Tell Me I’m Pretty, the guys in Cage The Elephant do their best impressions of more experimental psych-pop and garage punk artists and come out the other side looking pretty impressive. Really, it’s about time someone took the off-kilter but catchy sounds of indie-garage rock and fed them to the waiting masses. While these songs don’t tread much new ground, they do leave the listener thoroughly entertained and rarely bored – and what more could you ask for from a commercial rock group?
Cage The Elephant will be hard at work touring in support of their latest release in the New Year, with appearances across the United States, UK, and EU. In May, the band will perform at the Hangout Festival in Alabama. Check the Cage The Elephant tour page for tickets and more information.
Cage The Elephant Photo Credit: Ira Chernova