On June 23, 2008 a miscellaneous group of childhood friends brought up in the impoverished area of Bowling Green, Kentucky put out their debut album after years of playing and a year in the studio, Cage The Elephant. The self titled album erupted through the indie scene in the U.S. with its electric grunge sound similar to the 90’s band The Pixies.
Seven years, two hit albums, and a few around the world tours later have brought the bands to what they feel is their break. Lead singer, Matthew Shultz, tells Rolling Stone’s that after their few albums the band has finally evolved from Bob Dylan lyrics and knock off 80’s groove to a sound that is all their own. Schultz emphasizes the band’s focus on making their music all their own while getting away from imitating their childhood rock heros. The Guardian explains the band’s sound as “slightly psychedelic 60s garage rock given a postmodern sound”.
Cage The Elephant’s new release, Tell Me I’m Pretty, represents an eloquent evolution of sound. The album has a smoother more defined sound with classic rock to upbeat jazz undertones all mixed up with funky alternative tunes. Tell Me I’m Pretty throws out the band’s old haphazard electric guitar and replaces it conciliated melodies. The album’s songs Cry Baby, Trouble, and That’s Right are all perfect examples of the perfectly balanced mashups.
The bands adapt sound compared to it’s other albums could be attributed to their newest producer, Dan Auerbach, who pulled them together passed the dramas with their former guitarist leaving to simply produce their art. Auerbach is widely known for producing all of the Black Key’s hits, who Cage opened for in their rising to fame. The producers tactics were aimed to produce a raw and interesting sound. Rolling Stones magazine explains after their interview with the band, “To pull the band out of its Stooges-influenced raunch, Auerbach would call the band into the control room after a take, play them obscure Afrobeat or garage-rock records, then have the band take another stab at their own song”.
Schultz talks in depth about how the band has not just a new sound, but what he feels is a new depth. Many of the songs talk about his struggles with loneliness and nihilism that he experienced when the band got back from their first two year tour. He tells the story of how he bought his apartment and how he filled his time of not making music with decorating his new loft, and feeling obligated to spend time in each room, but he explains how he was so uninspired and unfulfilled he’d find himself staring at a blank TV.
Schultz tells radio.com, “On this record, we really found our own voice and it became more about allowing our emotions or some kind of story to shape”, and the lead singers/songwriters storytelling took flight in Tell Me I’m Pretty. Some of the tales are more personal like heard in the song Sweet Little Jean, a song about a close childhood friend who was kidnapped from the yard they would play in, and never found. Schultz expresses his still solid sadness over the incident by saying, “A lot of times, we all have those feelings of evident doom. Or maybe it’s just me and I just project that on everyone else”. The song represents the closure of a prolonged “coming to terms” process.
Brad Schultz, Matt’s brother, and lead guitarist of the band triumphantly remarks that the band emerged sane and unified as they finished up the album, which was a relief after the pressure to be an un-synthetic typical indie rock band after the drop of their first album. All of Cage The Elephant can confidently say that their new album was solely made with the intent of enjoying the music, and it shows in it’s quality.