Somewhere along the line I’ve missed this band. How so? I must have had my back turned. However I’m glad I’ve discovered them. Tell Me I’m Pretty is the fourth album from Kentucky based rock band Cage the Elephant. They appeared in 2008 with their self-titled debut which was a success both in the United States and Britain alike. They followed this up with 2011’s Thank You Happy Birthday which debuted at number two in the Billboard Top 200 chart and was cited as “One of the best rock albums of the year”.
Then 2013’s Melophobia was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative album taking them to new heights delivering two Number One singles on the Alternative charts (Come a Little Closer and Cigarette Daydreams). Although classed as rock it’s hard to just slot them into this one genre as they seem experimental and diverse in their sound. They are known for wired and frenetic live performances with singer Matthew Shultz having developed a reputation as something of a daring performer. Their vibrancy certainly comes across in Tell Me I’m Pretty. The songs off the album were recorded on the first take to capture the band’s onstage live energy (they have toured with the Foo Fighters, Black Keys, Muse and Queens of the Stone Age to name a few) and this album was produced by the Black Keys very own Dan Auerbach who plays guitar and keyboards on it.
The album is reminiscent of 60s garage pop/glam rock and a bit of 70s punk all rolled into one yet still manages to sound unique and retain its own stamp on it. Cry Baby has rumbling guitars and is all the above going on a date with the Rolling Stones and the Shadows! It’s instantly likeable and appealing. On Mess Around the guitar and drums immediately bring to mind the B52s (coincidentally the B52s had a track Dance This Mess Around). This is effervescent and catchy and sounds like a summer hit and instantly makes you want to dance. Sweetie Little Jean is also very 60s and tells the tragic story of a childhood friend who was abducted and murdered and has a stomping drum beat. Too Late to Say Goodbye was inspired by Bonnie and Clyde and sounds like a 60s MGMT. In Cold, Cold, Cold Matt sings of a dark period in his life.
This evokes the Rolling Stones again with its shimmery tambourine yet distinctly remains their own song “Doctor can you help me ‘cause something don’t feel right” and has a foot-tapping quality to it. Trouble and That’s Right echo Marc Bolan with their glam rock feel and vocal “We’ll stay up all night, waiting for the sun to shine” (and I love the woo-ee-ooes on Trouble) whilst How Are You True is eloquent and evocative, full of longing with acoustic guitar. Punchin Bag is very 60s inspired again with another of those stomping drums and is catchy despite its serious lyrics “I’m not your punchin bag” and Portuguese Knife Fight conjures up a showdown in a graphic novel. It’s very Peter Gunn theme!
Despite echoes of other bands and genres, (which is no bad thing) in Tell Me I’m Pretty, Cage the Elephant still sound like their own band as their individuality and energy shines through in this album with its eloquent song-writing, catchy hooks and quirky edge.
If you want to experience their energy for “real” though they are touring in February next year.