This Cage the Elephant article was written by Kevin Browne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.
Cage The Elephant‘s story of coming to be is one that ignites hope for the everyman who dreams of rock-n-roll stardom. A group of twenty-somethings who left ditch digging jobs to form a band that encapsulated the sound of the mid-2000s; everyone loves this kind of underdog story. Knowing this makes ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty‘ particularly hard to listen to and even harder to review.
The band’s self titled debut album showed huge promise with its pure, rock fury. Songs like ‘In One Ear’ and ‘Aint No Rest for the Wicked‘ had a blend of dirty southern rock riffs and hip-hop; reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine and early Chili Peppers. No easy feat to pull off.
Their following album ‘Thank You Happy Birthday’ showed they were more than pseudo-punk, MC5 clones with their music sounding slightly higher concept. All of a sudden, guitarists Brad Schultz and Matthan Minster discovered new playing styles while Matthew Schultz had ditched the Iggy Pop front-man antics in favour of a more Frank Black approach. The album spawned several festival anthems such as ‘Aberdeen‘ and the incredibly catchy ‘Shake Me Down’. ‘Thank You Happy Birthda y’s strong in terms of establishing a unique sound; as was its successor “Melophobia”.’Tell me I’m Pretty’ is not.
The searing, explosive delivery that their fans became accustomed to has been heavily doused with an industrial fire hose. The bold, left-field sound has been kicked to the curb in favour of something totally hollow.
‘Too Late to Say Goodbye‘ drags along at such an utterly agonising pace; it would make the crawl of a garden snail look like Usain Bolt after someone lit a fire under his ass. Similarly, the instantly forgettable ‘Trouble’ serves as medieval torture to endure.
Producer Dan Auberach’s influence becomes very clear on the track ‘Mess Around’ but this does it no favours whatsoever. While the vast majority of the album sounds like a collection of half hearted covers, this one sounds way too much like a rendition of ‘Lonely Boy’ by a Black Keys tribute act.
The boogie rock track ‘That’s Right’ proves to be one of the album’s few saving graces. It’s as if the band temporarily channelled the spirit of Marc Bolan to create a real foot stomper that not only gets you grooving, but eventually puts a nostalgic grin on your face.
It’s unclear what Cage The Elephant are trying to do on this album. Where earlier albums had a very distinct sound and seemed to be progressing forward, ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ seems to be a total side-somersault. There are numerous attempts to be more melancholic which clearly does not suit them one iota; these tracks seamlessly blur together into one big dismissible grey smudge.
It’s clear this elephant has been caged for far too long and has now become utterly tamed, but there’s no need to abandon hope yet. This may not be the album long time fans have been waiting for, but there’s still a chance that Cage The Elephant can learn from this set-back and pick up where they left off at ‘Melophobia’.
‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ is out now via RCA Records.