Release Date: Jan 11, 2011
Record label: Red Ink
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Click to listen to Cage the Elephant's "Shake Me Down" Can a nostalgia trip also be future shock? Cage the Elephant think so. The Kentucky band's 2009 debut staked out a middle ground between crusty classic sounds — punk, garage, blues — and the digitized sheen of the 21st century, earning the group a rock-radio hit in "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked." Thank You Happy Birthday begins in the same territory: Over the atmospheric fuzz and wobbly funk of "Always Something," singer Matthew Shultz is full of wide-eyed paranoia. "Around the corner/There's always something waiting for ya," he sings in a shriek that owes something to Liam Gallagher and something to a power mower.
This is storming. ’Thank You, Happy Birthday’ is a bold transition for this Kentucky five-piece who return with their follow up to 08’s selftitled debut. Having upped the lo-fi, gritty indie-rock and opting to forego the practical songwriting of last time for grungier terrain, songs like ‘Around My Head’ sound like they‘d be at home on the Pixies‘ ‘Doolittle’, while ‘Right Before My Eyes’ sounds like the bastard child of Blakfish and The Fall.
Three years on from the rock'n'roll joyride of their debut, Cage the Elephant have returned as a very different beast. Casting UK indie influences aside, the Kentucky five-piece has sought out the best in US punk and proto-grunge, layering exhilarating darkness and sinister sweetness, and some of the catchiest melodies you'll hear all year. The Pixies' influence looms large, with CTE wallowing in their predecessor's loud-quiet dynamic on both Aberdeen and Around My Head, before singer Matt Shultz faithfully reprises all of Black Francis's vocal tics during Japanese Buffalo.
Mainstream success is a curious thing. Those of us struggling to pay this month’s rent would gladly welcome fame and fortune, but for a group trying to remain true to its aesthetic, it can spark an existential crisis. Cage the Elephant’s 2009 self-titled debut yielded three hit singles (including “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” which turned up in more than a handful of commercials, movies and TV shows).
Nice surprise this one. Nu-grunge? Hardly. There’s little sign of [a]Cage The Elephant[/a]’s former angst here, replaced instead by three types of song. There are ones that sound like [a]Dead Kennedys[/a], such as [b]‘Indy Kidz’[/b], a “right haircut”-baiting rework of [b]‘California Uber Alles’[/b].
A time warp mash of the Pixies, Oasis, the Arctic Monkeys, and Kasabian that hails from, of all places, Bowling Green, KY, Cage the Elephant are out of step, out of style, and out of place on their second effort, like alt-rock kids trapped in an indie rock world. Thank You Happy Birthday bangs hard on the guitars and swaggers like the Shins never happened, but once hot, fast tracks like “2024” and “Right Before My Eyes” sink their hooks into the listener, it doesn’t matter much that the band is an odd patchwork quilt of alt-rock nostalgia. If this was some supergroup that splintered off the Smashing Pumpkins it would make perfect sense, but these memorable songs are delivered with the same energetic push the band displayed on its self-titled debut, so the strong sense of purpose is intact.
Has there been a better time to be an indie-sounding rock band than 2011? The past decade saw the shape-shifting genre of indie tiptoe closer to ubiquity, as your favorite bands signed to majors and your favorite website got co-opted by platitude-spewing Grandmas watching your every status update. Not that the loss of exclusivity is worth being bitter over. Think of all the benchmarks, most of which you might’ve saved in a shoebox in ticket stub form.
Ah, the dreaded sophomore album. So feared that industry insiders have labeled the most common occurrence for the second go-around as the sophomore slump. That essentially translates to mean that no matter the act, most people have the automatic assumption that the second record will no doubt be a huge disappointment. In fact, it's assumed that the more impressive the first LP, the larger the crater made after the second LP's disastrous fall to Earth will be.
With their 2009 eponymous debut, Kentucky five-piece Cage The Elephant redefined the Southern funk-rock genre with songs as rowdy and bluesy as “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” and “In One Ear”. These tracks showcased the band’s knack for crafting radio-friendly pop meets gutsy, balls-to-the-wall rock; backed with their aggressive, bad ass attitude, the record was sure to succeed. It went on to sell 400, 000 copies, generated three Top 5 singles, and garnered an internationally massive fanbase for the funk/punk outfit, who had at this point been recognized in England after signing with Relentless Records in ’07.
CAGE THE ELEPHANT “Thank You Happy Birthday”. (Jive).
2010 was a year of ?90s overload as indie groups reunited and cashed in on nostalgia for that simpler, grungier time. Young Kentucky band Cage the Elephant offer a contemporary alternative to the Alternative Nation with their sophomore album, Thank You Happy Birthday. Charismatic lead shrieker Matt Shultz wears his slacker influences proudly: On quiet-quiet-LOUD pogofests ”Aberdeen” and ”Shake Me Down,” sounds cribbed from the Pixies and Nirvana seem as fresh as an unworn flannel.
A catchy US hit that’s not afraid to offend mainstream sensibilities. Mark Beaumont 2011 This has been a surprise hit in the US – a surprise because the second album from Kentucky’s Cage the Elephant’s dares you not to like it. Where their eponymous debut was hailed as a 21st century take on grunge back in 2008, this follow-up digs deeper into 80s post-punk and hardcore to create something altogether pricklier.
It’s not that Cage the Elephant has “grown up” since their first album and followed it with a sophomore effort that’s just a stronger extension of the first, because in some ways, Thank You Happy Birthday is the lyrical antithesis of their debut. The self-titled first recording, rife with hit singles, harbored some very general frustrations with the ways of the world, while Thank You scrubs off a lot of youthful angst, turns the pointing finger around, and examines problems more personal to the songwriter. Matt Shultz sings about music industry tricks, TV ad poison and stereotypical hipster self-aware B.S.