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For their second album, Cage the Elephant have definitely gone a little more darker, adding more electronic, punk and harder rock influences to their grungy sound with a little less of the bluesy influence found on their first album.
Fantastic opener Always Something starts with a howl and drives forward with a pounding beat. There is much more bitterness and regret here - a similar story telling style to Ain't No Rest for the Wicked from their first album, but an innocent naiveté on that song has been replaced by a darker voice, haunted by experience.
The song fades out onto my favourite song Aberdeen (named after Kurt Cobain's hometown, not the Granite City!). Swirling and crashing guitars fuzz in and out, whilst a storming chorus will stick in your head for days. Matthew Schultz's vocals are filled with longing and lust, building to a breathless conclusion.
Indy Kidz is a scowling punky fuzzy wonderful mess of a song - it won't be to everyone's taste- that builds and then gradually unravels. The contrast in tone to the wonderful Shake Me Down that follows is huge. This is much gentler than what has gone before, much more melodic and straightforward - the best known song from the album may not be the most reflective of the sound of the album. Sparky chords over a vibrant tune suddenly quieten down to the evocative refrain of "even on a cloudy day", harmonies are layered on and there is one final build up and fall away. It's an incredibly evocative song - the music video for it was beautiful and haunting and fitted it really well.
More high speed scuzzy punk follows with 2024, and Sell Yourself, the latter with an angrily insistent chorus which really drives the energy of the album onwards. Rubber Mall is more dreamy, a sort of lo-fi waltz.
The energy returns with another of the catchier tunes - Right Before My Eyes, mixing more rhythmic guitars with another excellent chorus. Despite the upbeat melody, there is again a bit of a haunted sadness evident in the lyrics and vocals.
Around My Head makes it two more straightforward tunes in a row and has obviously been influenced by the Pixies, and much of it sounds like it could have walked off Doolittle - with a bit of Weezer thrown in. It definitely has its moments though, the song drives into a fantastic bridge, before reprising the main part of the song more quietly and diving into a grungy and spiky finish.
We're then thrown into the vicious whirl of Sabretooth Tiger, one of my guilty pleasures from the album. It is pure noise and energy, intense guitars and howling vocals, it's hard and heavy, a scream of a song that briefly stops and comes back punching even harder, an aural assault, but in the best way (my inner teenager loves it!).
Another Pixies-esque beginning song in Japanese Buffalo, certainly in the opener, before the tempo is cranked up into an energetic punk thrash which switches to a slacker chorus. Finally the album relaxes into the gentle, spaced out Flow and the jaunty acoustic reprise of Right Before My Eyes as a hidden track.
This album goes someway to capturing their anarchic live energy. It is more louder and rambunctious than their debut, although it does switch down the tempo for a respite now and again. The lo-fi vocals have become more howling and desperate. The guitars are harder and more intense, and in some ways this is a more grown up album - even though it may be harder for grown ups to listen to (speaking as an alleged grown up!) But the brilliance of songs like Aberdeen and Shake Me Down make it an album very much worth buying.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Always Something
3 Indy Kidz
4 Shake Me Down
6 Sell Yourself
7 Rubber Ball
8 Right Before My Eyes
9 Around My Head
10 Sabertooth Tiger
11 Japanese Buffalo