How does the groups 5th and probably, most mature outing yet hold up against their prior efforts?
Cage The Elephant have probably been one of the most consistent bands to come out of the end of the noughties. They had a fairly good debut, before, releasing their two best albums “Thankyou, happy birthday” in 2011, followed by “Melaphobia” in 2013. “Thankyou” was a big improvement on their first, which mostly followed in its punk blues footsteps. But “Melaphobia” saw them break the mould a touch going full experimental with a psychedelic twinge. Their last release was 2015s “Tell me I’m pretty”, which saw the Texas group drop the psych rock in favour of a more streamlined alternative rock album, it sounded heavily reminiscent of a Black Keys record. It was necessarily a bad album, it was perfectly serviceable in terms of rock tunes, but it failed to reach the heights of “Melaphobia” and what had come before it. This new album heads back to a more experimental/psychedelic sound mixed with the alternative rock tunes of their first and their 4th records.
This is by far their most mature sounding album to date, but, it still very much feels like a Cage The Elephant record. The group released a bevy of pre-release singles, most of which I enjoyed. I’ll start by talking about that singles I enjoyed that most. The first of which is “Ready to let go” is a fairly standard alt-rock outing, but it has real nice instrumentation, I particularly enjoy the crunchy guitar hooks that match nicely with Schultz vocals. Essentially, this is what Cage The Elephant does best and that’s not bad thing, by any means. By far the best single released prior to the record is “House of Glass”, this track is easily one of the more experimental and ‘out there’ cuts on the record, it’s certainly got a more psychedelic feel, more akin to the sounds of melophobia. It features quite unusual instrumentation and Schultz vocals are definitely a bit more understated in terms of delivery, but, its fast paced and quite trippy overall.
The next single from the album was “Night running” featuring Beck. Now, I’m not a particularly massive Beck fan, well not his more recent stuff anyway. I’m gonna have to say that his feature on this track is easily my least favourite part about it. This is certainly one of the more poppier cuts on the record, which doesn’t automatically make it a bad thing, but, you can defiantly tell Beck’s had his hands on it. The instrumentation is fairly nice on this track though, with a fairly glitzy production with a slightly reggae/ska edge to it. Schultz parts on this track are easily the best as I find his vocals much more appealing than Becks here. I’m not going to say this track would be better without Beck’s feature, I’m just going to suggest that it may have been improved slightly without him on here.
The last of the singles is actually one of the slowest cuts on the record, the track “Goodbye” is a fairly nice ballad, with piano lead instrumentation with a fairly psychedelic ambience, with that ambience slowly building as the song progresses. It is quite an atmospheric track and I enjoyed listening to it. Now that the pre-released singles are out of the way its time to dive into the rest of the album and the album actually opens up very strongly. The first track “Broken Boy” is another fast paced psychedelic rock banger that almost feels like part 1 of “House of Glass” in terms of instrumentation and vocal style. It’s a great taste of what’s to come from the rest of the album and if there is one thing that album does well is that it feels consistent sonically throughout, which I appreciate a lot. There are only a few slower tracks on this record with one being “Goodbye” from above and the other being “Love is the only way”, which is another atmospheric ballad.
The albums strong points certainly come more from the fast paced tracks all which draw their psychedelic, garage rock influences and do so well. Other standout tracks is the penultimate “Tokyo Smoke” which has some really nice guitar licks and again great vocals from Schultz. Overall, the band have done quite a nice job here with this new record. Whilst I didn’t think their last effort “Tell me I’m pretty” was bad, it was a little middle of the road. This album takes a few more risks in terms of experimentation and for the reason I feel this new record tops it, however, I do think it doesn’t quite reach the same heights as their first 3 records. Still, CTE remain as one of the most consistently good alt rock bands of the era.