Release Date: Oct 8, 2013
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Among new millennial '90s alt-rock revivalists, Cage the Elephant are distinguished by their elegantly sculpted melodicism and their eagerness to smooth their scuzz-rock -– equal parts Pixies and classic Nuggets -– to make their rock palatable to the masses. The two characteristics go hand and hand -- good melodies always beg for proper presentation -- and CTE's predilection for polish isn't without precedent: Pixies producer Gil Norton was many things but raw was not one of them. To their considerable credit, Cage the Elephant don't sound stuck in any one of their possible pasts on 2013's Melophobia, their third album and their most assured LP to date.
Bowling Green, Ky. isn’t the place one expects to find the hot pink center of a post-modern glam revival, but that’s where Cage The Elephant—whose Melophobia is a glitter-flecked triumph of banging power pop—calls home. Propulsive choruses, a musical cacophony that whirls and a melodic sense that secedes nothing to the rhythms, the scrappy quintet’s third album is a focused, frenzied affair.
Following the release of their self-titled debut album and its standout single Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked in 2008, it seemed only a matter of time before Cage The Elephant made their mainstream breakthrough. However, while their signature single did chart well – reaching Number 32 in the UK – the Kentucky five-piece have never quite achieved the widespread acclaim that their gritty, uninhibited rock ‘n’ roll deserved. The band’s second album, Thank You Happy Birthday, was met with a similar reaction, with critics largely applauding the eclectic and experimental return.
Kentucky's Cage the Elephant warp Sixties garage rock, Seventies punk and Eighties alt-rock into excellently weird new shapes – like the way a Beatles reference bumps up against chaotic horns and deranged Pixies crooning on "Hypocrite." As with the band's two previous LPs, Melophobia rides crackling melodies and a visceral tumult that's the perfect backing for Matt Shultz's paranoid lyrics: "I think your mother wants me dead," he sings against static-cling riffs on "Spiderhead." There's a freaky encounter with a spaceman ("Telescope") and a dance-party rager about a wicked girl ("Black Widow"), but the whole thing vibrates with hopped-up discovery. .
“Every time we make an album, it’s a war with ourselves,” Matthew Shultz told Consequence of Sound earlier this year. At the helm of Cage the Elephant, he’s held tight to his post as one of mainstream rock’s more endearing voices. His warm rasp bounces around in the triangle bounded by Isaac Brock, Conor Oberst, and Black Francis. While Cage the Elephant’s 2010 sophomore LP Thank You Happy Birthday might have piped heyday Pixies into the present, Melophobia (a fancy term for “fear of music,” though there are no nods to Talking Heads in the sonics) dips further back in its retrospection.
Kentucky fried rock band Cage the Elephant quickly became a household name a few years ago with their single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” A mish-mash of blues, hip-hop, and alternative rock, the track was a cool slice of pulp fiction decorated with a catchy-as-hell chorus. Unfortunately, nothing on their third outing, Melophobia (which means “fear of music”), comes close to matching their previous glory. In fact, except for a few cool production techniques and some interesting mid-song changes, the record is just a collection of shallow, uninvolving tracks with plenty of distortion and eccentric singing.
What do ‘Losing My Religion’, ‘Twist and Shout’, ‘Mr Brightside’, and a million other hits have in common? Undeniable, irresistible choruses – a great chorus is the essence of great pop. Catchy doesn’t guarantee quality (see: ‘Moves Like Jagger’) and there’s no need for perfect songs to be chorus-led or even hummable (see also: Kid A). But we can all agree that a sky-high chorus, inclosing a hook big enough for all the gods to hang their coats on, works wonders.
It's hard to think of many peers for Cage the Elephant. They're a young Kentucky rock band riffing on Zep and garage-punk without retro nostalgia; whip-smart songwriters un-beloved by hipsters; rock-radio hitmakers who play with the unhinged mania of a warehouse set. On "Melophobia" they're in a class of their own among big, unit-shifting rock bands who can play with the scrap and imagination of van-tour vermin.
There’s a lot happening on Melophobia, the third album by Kentucky rock band Cage The Elephant. The five members spent time separately concocting their own ideas for the album after a lengthy period of time together on the road. The resulting album is, at its best, ambitious and teeming with ideas and, at worst, one heck of a mish-mash of sounds. Actually, the best example of both of these scenarios is the late-album track “Teeth,” a bouncy, fun, spastic pop-rock song that deteriorates into an odd and slightly disturbing spoken word piece that should have been left on the cutting room floor.