It’s Christmas come early for Cage The Elephant fans as the American rockers finally release their fourth studio album, Tell Me I’m Pretty. The 10-track record is exactly what you’d expect from a group that never truly follow-on with what people expect. With this being said, Tell Me I’m Pretty is one of those releases that you’re either going to love or hate.
The boys from Bowling Green, Kentucky have forgone the garage-rock sound, branching out from their 2011 album Thank You, Happy Birthday and traded in their boisterous blues vibes of Grammy nominated 2013 record Melophobia. In true Cage The Elephant style, they’ve reinvented their sonic person… again.
The four-piece band sidelined their longtime producer, Jay Joyce, and enlisted The Black Keys vocalist and guitarist, Dan Auerback, to take his place on the new album. Auerback lends backing vocals, guitar and keyboard to several tracks and delivers an overall solid and consistent production. Tell Me I’m Pretty is all bout ‘60s psychedelic rock; it’s stripped back, dirty and poignant but admittedly, some tracks lack the unbridled energy that Cage The Elephant is known for.
“… The lyrics “Well we pinned your missing person picture up on every mother-loving post, how’s it feel to be a ghost, you’re the one I loved the most” will leave you with goosebumps.”
‘Cry Baby’ gets the record started with an infectious melody hooked and solidified with some damn catchy lyrics. It’s a well-crafted song and will no doubt be stuck in your head before you even finish listening to it. With this amount of energy, you also get the feeling that they are holding back for unknown circumstances as there’s no signature shrieking vocal performance from frontman, Matt Shultz. With lyrics such as, “You say that I’m insane, I say you’re probably right”, you’d expect him to sound like he’s thrashing around in the studio. Instead, you envision him kind of just nonchalantly tapping his foot.
Auerback’s influence is most prominent on the first release of the album and second track ‘Mess Around’. It could be said that the fuzzy guitar and bluesy rhythm is resonant to the The Black Keys sound, but that isn’t exactly a bad thing. Doesn’t everything Auerback touch turn to music gold, anyway? That’s certainly the case with tracks ‘Trouble’ and ‘It’s Too Late To Say Goodbye’. Both are well-crafted, textural rock songs with simplistic yet powerful beats. Schulz’s classic voice resonates with sultry psychedelic tones, and, for some reason, Bonnie and Clyde come to mind when listening to these two tracks.
Lyrically, this record hosts some of Cage The Elephant’s heaviest songs. They’ve definitely been doing some soul-searching. ‘Sweetie Little Jean’ is about the real-life kidnapping and murder of Shultz’s childhood sweetheart, and the lyrics “Well we pinned your missing person picture up on every mother-loving post, how’s it feel to be a ghost, you’re the one I loved the most” will leave you with goosebumps. ‘How Are You True’ is a roots rock track that encapsulates what many of us fear the most – growing old. Instrumentally, it’s simplistic but Shultz’s piercing vocals stand alone beautifully to leave you with a feeling of intense nostalgia. “And I try to find the will to carry on, wonder how much longer I can carry on,” he croons. ‘Cold Cold Cold’ is a hauntingly poignant ballad on depression and ‘Punchin’ Bag’ tells the story of a woman standing up against domestic violence.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. ‘That’s Right’ is a cheeky little dance number that disrupts the melancholy. The guitar licks and drumbeat carry undertones of their classic garage-rock style infused with laid-back ‘60s psych-rock vocals. With lyrics like, “Take a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of wine, take all your problems leave them all behind”, it’s clear that Cage The Elephant still know how to have a good time. The record closes off with ‘Portugese Knife Fight’. It’s a sharp, clean cut and classic rock song, which lyrically leaves a little to be desired.
There’s no doubt Tell Me I’m Pretty is a coming-of-age record for Cage The Elephant. They’ve made it through garage-rock puberty and have blazed a trail into psychedelic-rock manhood. The Kentucky rockers have once again proved that they will never be complacent with standing still.
Tell Me I’m Pretty is out now via RCA Records / Sony Entertainment.