Thank You, Happy Birthday – Cage the Elephant

EDIT: Check out my interview with Brad from Cage the Elephant HERE

I remember during the close of 2009, a lot of my friends started to hate on Cage the Elephant cause “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” was everywhere. And yeah, it was, but I’m not gonna lie and say the song wasn’t good in itself. It’s just what the media does to catchy songs. Even the band must have realized that they were walking a thin line of becoming one-hit wonders. Luckily, they got smart and changed their shit up a bit so that Spin would stop naming them “funk-rock” (what the fuck is funk-rock by the way?). And while it’s hit or miss on some tracks, the new direction is what needed to be done.

The album kicks off with “Always Something.” On first listen, I didn’t like it. I gave it a second chance and realized it was pretty good. If you were expecting “In One Ear” pt. 2, ya might as well quit while you’re ahead, cause the band said “fuck that.” It’s a dark tune with a cool drum beat and vocals. It follows with “Aberdeen”, which is catchy as hell and has cool guitar licks. Indy Kidz” just isn’t good. I got a minute into it and had to skip it.

I was starting to get a little less hopeful about the album at this point. However, the single “Shake Me Down” assuaged some of my doubts. The melancholy song is about singer Matt Shultz’s previous opiate addiction and switches between peaceful guitar melodies to pounding drums. While I dig the guitar riffs and drum beats on “2024”, the ska-ish vocals kind of kill it for me. C’mon dudes. Ska sucks. “Sell Yourself” starts out strong, but then goes down hill. It picks up towards the end as the guitar distortion and chaos become redeeming factors.

The album then takes a break from the chaos for the track “Rubber Ball.” It’s another downer song, but has a delicateness to it. It paints the picture of someone lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling and watching the world pass them by. The guitar makes you want to drift away for a bit, and maybe that’s the point. Either way, I really like this track. It’s followed by tracks “Right Before My Eyes” and “Around My Head”, which continue the trend of downer songs, but with the rest of the band. These tracks are good but not great.

“Sabertooth Tiger” is where things pick up again. I knew these dudes were fans of Nirvana when they played “Serve the Servants” on their preshow music setlist in St. Louis and when Matt was wearing a Nirvana shirt at the same gig. You can definitely hear the influence of them on many tracks, but you can hear it clearly during the basslines on this track. Cage is the best when they show their attitude and this track is no exception.

“Japanese Buffalo” is more of a b-side song, but the band made a start choice by closing with the 7-minute long “Flow”. Instead of closing the album with a bang like the first album did with “Free Love,” the band opted out and went with a more peaceful closer. And it works a lot better for this album. I didn’t know how acoustic Cage songs would go, but this track and the hidden acoustic version of “Right Before My Eyes” show that they can pull it off. They should have used this version of “Right Before My Eyes” instead of the previous one. It feels more sincere and yes, sad. But shit, if life was perfect, I doubt music would exist to begin with.

Anyways, enough blabbing for now. You can check out these videos below to make up your mind about the album. When it’s good, it’s really good. While it has a couple of not-too-strong tracks, it’s definitely not a “sophomore slump”. If they made the first album again, it probably would have been. But like the late great Elliott Smith once said “Playing it safe is the most popular way to fail.”

Tour Dates:

2/19: The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, NV (w/ Sleeper Agent and The Black Keys)

2/21: Boulder Theatre, Boulder, CO (w/ Sleeper Agent)

2/23: Beaumont Club, Kansas City, MO (w/ Sleeper Agent)

2/24: The Pageant, St. Louis, MO (w/ Sleeper Agent)

2/25: The Vogue Theater, Indianapolis, IN (w/ Sleeper Agent)

2/27: The Vic Theater, Chicago, IL (w/ Sleeper Agent)

Shake Me Down 

Always Something 

Right Before My Eyes 

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