Cage The Elephant

Cage The Elephant

Relentless records, 2008

REVIEW BY: Greg Calhoun


I love debuts. Whether artists become lions in the industry or puffs of smoke, whether they leave their original fans for the promise of mainstream glitz, they always leave behind the energetic roots of their birth, the album that took a young lifetime of sweat, passion, and luck just to get made. Cage The Elephant’s self-titled starter is a prime example of this. The group’s early success seems to chart a course for potential stardom, and whatever heights they reach will be built on the foundation of this lively record full of hooks.

While Cage The Elephant followed an unlikely path to the charts by relocating from Kentucky to London, their songwriting follows the proven method of combining memorable choruses and exciting instrumentals with a frontman who delivers with style and swagger. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Cage The Elephant channels equal parts retro rock and Red Hot Chili Peppers as vocalist Matthew Shultz spits like Anthony Kiedis and shakes like Craig Nicholls of the Vines.  The band’s rhythm section supports him with rock and roll that is full of funky, blues-inspired riffs. After recently witnessed this combination at Milwaukee’s Summerfest, I can verify that the band lives up to this rollicking disc by holding nothing back on stage.

On a record that is enjoyable from start to finish, several songs still stick out.  “In One Ear” slams all the naysayers and trash-talkers with the carefree attitude expressed in its catchy chorus. “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” received the most radio play, and its gritty survivalist themes work well with the sparse slide guitar. The song should be a strong candidate to be the theme song for the New Normal, as its characters scrape desperately to make a living, and it is one of several tracks that reveal this band to be capable storytellers who appeal to our emotions with the exploits of actual people instead of with vague feelings and observations. “Tiny Little Robots” rails against conformism with a syncopated, half-time chorus and was a great song to hear live. “Back Against the Wall” uses both the pre-chorus and the refrain to perfection.

With only a couple of tracks that are merely average, Cage The Elephant marks the start of a bright future for this group. It draws on a wide range of influences yet has a cohesive sound that is both approachable and unique. It leaves no doubt that they will continue to make noise in the industry. There are songs to write and there is a living to be made.  After all, as they say, there “Ain’t no rest for the wicked / Money don’t grow on trees / I’ve got bills to pay / I’ve got mouths to feed / Ain’t nothing in this world for free.” 

Rating: A-

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