Back in 2008, a punchy little band with the unusual name Cage the Elephant stormed onto the rock scene with their debut self-titled album. The group, originally from Bowling Green, Kentucky, blended spazzy, aggressive guitar rock with bits of computerized funk that recalled Beck at his noisiest. The band scored hits on modern rock radio with the singles “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” and “Back Against the Wall” and became known for their amazingly intense live performances. The band appears to be coming into their own this week, as they are not only dropping their second album Thank You, Happy Birthday but will also be appearing on “The Late Show With David Letterman” and are this week’s MTV Push Artist of the Week.
They’ll have plenty of success ahead of them if the reviews of Thank You, Happy Birthday are any indication. Jon Pareles of the New York Times loved the release, declaring it “more abrasive, rowdier, more unstable and pushier in the right ways.” He praised Cage the Elephant for their abrasive energy but also acknowledged their excellent use of balladry. “Mere punk insolence would be too one-dimensional for Cage the Elephant,” he wrote. “Its slower songs — still frayed with noise — counsel perseverance against any odds.”
Entertainment Weekly also thought Cage the Elephant’s new album was excellent, though critic Andy Greenwald gravitated more to its throwback nature. “Charismatic lead shrieker Matt Shultz wears his slacker influences proudly,” he wrote. “On quiet-quiet-LOUD pogofests ‘Aberdeen’ and ‘Shake Me Down,’ sounds cribbed from the Pixies and Nirvana seem as fresh as an unworn flannel.”
The band’s uncanny ability to balance jagged energy with beautiful melody grabbed the attention of Rolling Stone‘s Jody Rosen. “Cage the Elephant treat their guitars like percussion instruments, filling the songs with all kinds of clanging, crashing and thudding, and augmenting the clamor with buzzing keyboards,” he wrote in a three-and-a-half star review. “They have a secret weapon, too: pop melody … In ‘Rubber Ball,’ Cage quiet down for a hushed lullaby. Shultz coos, ‘All I got is nothing but a little bit of love.’ He’s got another thing, actually: one of rock’s best young bands.”
The idea that Cage the Elephant might be the next big thing was echoed by the Los Angeles Times, whose Ann Powers associated them with the last big thing. “Like the Kings of Leon, Cage the Elephant gains benefits from being rooted in a region where plain old rock still has wide appeal,” she wrote. “There’s no pretentiousness to this band, and no tricks in the clean production by versatile Nashville vet Jay Joyce. And though Shultz’s lyrics betray much self-doubt, his wildfire yelp overcomes it.”
What do you think of the new album by Cage the Elephant? Let us know in the comments!