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Cage the Elephant's debut album demonstrates their great mix of sounds and influences, including rock'n'roll, blues, grunge and punk. Among the stand out tracks is catchy opener In One Ear, which sets the scene with its bluesy hooks, driving rhythm and lyrics full of defiance and attitude - it is very much a mission statement for the band.
Possibly the defining song of the album is third track Ain't No Rest for the Wicked. The song opens with a guitar hook that is reminiscent of Beck's Loser. The story telling verses are backed up with a memorable, almost gospel-like chorus. It's a simple and immediate song with a classic feel. Back Against the Wall is another of the best on this album, building to a fantastic chorus over a nicely rocking four chord progression overlaid with a squalling guitar track. Back Stabbin' Betty opens with a deliciously sultry guitar hook, with a plaintive bluesy vocal, reminding me a little of Cold War Kids, building into something more aggressive and angry, over some honky-tonk style piano.
That's not to say the rest is filler. Each song has it's own standout moments. Overall the album is run through with continuous energy and a confident swagger build to the anarchic final song of Free Love. Lead singer Matthew Schultz's vocal style won't be to everyone's taste, but gives the songs a low fi, laid back, slacker characteristic which compliments the scuzzy ferocity of the guitars. If you're looking for a slightly grungier version of the Black Keys, then you would probably appreciate this album.
Hailing from Kentucky, Cage The Elephant are a relatively new band, and actually the first time I heard of them was when I saw their singer, Matt Schultz, on Nevermind The Buzzcocks. He was very funny and charismatic, so I thought I'd check out his band, and I'm so glad I did!
'Cage The Elephant' is their self-titled debut album. Apparently the band's name come from an encounter with a psychic medium who told singer Matt that he needed to Cage The Elephant, scaring both herself and him away with the intensity of her delivery. But while running away, the phrase was remembered and became the name of the band. The name (and indeed the cover and sleeve of this album) is appropriately unique and creative for a band who are, to me, pretty artsy and individual, with a mixture of everything from punk and rock to rap and country. If I had to compare them to another band, which is quite difficult, I'd say they were almost a cross between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against The Machine...
1. In One Ear - This is one of my favourite songs on the album because it has a great beat and is a real "whatever" response to people who gossip about or say mean things to you. A catchy rocky tune which you'll end up singing along too!
2. James Brown - The music on this track is really up beat and groovy, just like James Brown I guess!
3. Ain't No Rest For The Wicked - This is, I think, my favourite song from the album, probably because it's the first song of theirs that I heard, but I love the southern feel with the guitars in this song, which is more or less about the harsh realities of life and the things that people have to do to survive. It's almost like story of revelation where the character of the singer would meet an angel or something (kind of like Scrooge meeting the spirits in A Christmas Carol), except here they are metaphoric, represented by the people and the ways of life he encounters. It's a good song, conjuring an image of an average guy walking down a road, possibly a biblical influence (?) and being somehow enlightened.
4. Tiny Little Robots - Another favourite (just realising how good this album to have almost all of the songs amongst the best!), which is really rocky and I really like the breakdown in this song, which is actually very Pin Floyd sounding to me, and great when they play this live as everyone joins in with "oh oh oh"s.
5. Lotus - This song manages to be really quite upbeat as well as being also pretty mellow, which is nice!
6. Back Against The Wall - This is my other favourite. This songs starts really beautifully quiet and unassuming but has an incredible build up into a great rock song which is great for singing along to and rocking out with. I love the singing in this song, with the rough desperate sounding vocals and I love (don't ask me why!) the way Matt Schultz sings the lyrics "Persian leather" Finally, the song is completed by a good guitar solo. Maybe this is actually my favourite song!?
7. Drones In The Valley - I like the title of this song, but for me this is one of the least memorable tracks on the album. That doesn't mean it's no good though! It just seems to lack the character of the other songs...
8. Judas - This is cool, catchy song but again, not one of my favourites.
9. Back Stabbin' Betty - This is one of my favourite tracks music wise because it has such a deliberate beat to it and the guitar work is nice, quite Muse sounding. The lyrics are also cool, however I don't like the explicit lyrics in the first chorus, which ruins it a bit...
10. Soil To The Sun - This is another good alternative rocky song with a light up-beat feel.
11. Free Love - This is a bit of a crazy experimental sounding song, with clashing chords, and altogether a bit chaotic really! But it's good fun and a good and interesting final track, which seems to hint at the continuing progression and development of the band as a nice cliff hanger for the next album...
All in all, this is a great album for fans or most music genres, and for people who are looking for a new band to get into. I highly recommend this album for its catchy and intellectual nature, with cool lyrics and good musicianship - songs you can really sing along to!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 In One Ear
2 James Brown
3 Ain't No Rest For The Wicked
4 Tiny Little Robots
6 Back Against The Wall
7 Drones In The Valley
9 Back Stabbin' Betty
10 Soil To The Sun
11 Free Love