After a long, strenuous two years of waiting, everyone’s favourite Bowling Green, Kentucky based indie rock outfit Cage the Elephant have returned in full force with their newly released album Tell Me I’m Pretty. Produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Tell Me I’m Pretty is the band’s first release of new music since their 2013 Grammy-nominated album Melophobia.
Going into this album, I was ridiculously keen to hear what Cage the Elephant would come up with to follow up the incredible Melophobia. A pretty high standard was set, but I was definitely not disapointed in the slightest. Tell Me I’m Pretty delves right into what is the signature Cage the Elephant sound; fuzzy, distorted guitars, Matthew Shultz’s signature voice and hard, heavy drumlines all throughout. Accompany this with absolute top-shelf lyrics and you’ve got yourself alt-radio high rotation hits across the board.
It really does seem as though Cage the Elephant have worked out the perfect formula for songwriting, and making those songs flow nicely in the shape of an album. Upon arriving to around the 6th song mark of Tell Me I’m Pretty there had already been a range of different styles of song displayed; fast & slow, raw & polished and simple & complex, whilst all maintaining an undeniable Cage the Elephant sound. It was here that I thought “wow, Cage the Elephant is honestly one of the most consistent bands I’ve heard.
Tell Me I’m Pretty kicks off with the punchy tune Cry Baby. Punchy in that, the infectiously strong DUN DUN DUN DUN drum thudding right before primary melodies and hooks serve as a major factor in making this a memorable song.
The album continues along the pathway that Cry Baby paves, with different styles on display all throughout. From thumping dance tracks like Mess Around, That’s Right and Punchin’ Bag all the way to the slower, more emotion fuelled tracks such as Sweetie Little Jean, Too Late to Say Goodbye and Cold Cold Cold.
Tell Me I’m Pretty also sees Cage the Elephant go into previously uncharted territory for the band, especially in the song Too Late to Say Goodbye. It’s one of the rare times you can catch the band relying more heavily on evoking an emotionalal response from its listeners rather than just sweeping you up with a catchy melody.
Along with this, the band has gone back to putting out some really simple, raw material as they did back on their debut self-titled album of 2009. Songs Trouble and How Are You True spark this thought, both being back to back on Tell Me I’m Pretty. They are the 6th & 7th songs on the 10-song effort, serving as a well-constructed relaxing point from the high levels of intensity in its lead-up.
The album finishes on the track Portugese Knife Fight, which again, is just such a classic Cage the Elephant song. One of those songs that you can notice is distinctly their sound within the first 5 seconds. With a pretty simple, catchily progressing guitar riff leading the way; the song sounds like a triumphant victory song, a really positive note to go out on for Tell Me I’m Pretty.
It’s a shame this album was released in mid-December, a time often regarded for being one of the worst periods to release new music. It won’t be eligible for a lot of websites’ Best of 2015 lists, and will more than likely not go on to be remembered enough to be included in such lists of 2016. That is, unless one of the next singles to be released from Tell Me I’m Pretty (which I’m thinking will be Too Late to Say Goodbye) is a mega mainstream success that shines a major spotlight on Cage the Elephant, bringing them into the attention of a much larger audience than their dedicated cult of a following. However, this seems unlikely.
A mighty shame, since Cage the Elephant have proved they’re worthy of being up amongst the best of the best, with their 2013 album Melophobia being nominated for best alternative album at the Grammys (ultimately losing to Vampire Weekend). Tell Me I’m Pretty is definitely up to the same standard, if not higher than Melophobia, so I really hope it isn’t an album to be lost and buried in the sand of the festive season.
Overall, I would definitely recommend having a listen to this. Regardless if you’re a fan or not, there is so much versatility shown that it would be hard to not find at least ONE song that you love.
Artist: Cage the Elephant
Album: Tell Me I’m Pretty
Label: RCA Records
Genre: Alt Psych Garage Rock
Highlights: Mess Around, Too Late to Say Goodbye, Trouble
Lowlights: How Are You True (lyrics are a bit weak, still a good song)
This review was written by Jakob Rosenblatt.