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Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant (photo by Ira Chernova, PR)

Cage the Elephant (photo by Ira Chernova, PR)

by

Tell Me I’m Pretty
Cage The Elephant
RCA/DSP Records

Kentucky’s Cage The Elephant has been one of alternative rock’s leading bands ever since their self-titled debut album first emerged in 2008. For the past eight years, the band developed its confident and edgy guitar-driven sound, bolstered by the assertive vocals of lead singer Matt Shultz. At the same time, they remained restless and driven to progress.

For Cage the Elephant's fourth album, Tell Me I'm Pretty, they turned to producer Dan Auerbach, of the Black Keys and the Arcs, tapping his vast music sense to create an album that's honest and spontaneous. Under Auerbach’s guidance, they kept the music-making process simple and avoided overthinking. Auerbach introduced the band to a good deal of older, lesser-known music and Cage the Elephant used these vintage recordings to inspire the creative process.

The songs on Tell Me I'm Pretty flow through a psychedelic haze of buzzing electric guitars and reverb which is immediately evident on the album’s first song, “Cry Baby,” as well as “Punchin’ Bag.” The first single, “Mess Around,” juxtaposes these fuzzed-out guitars with cleaner, rhythmic strumming. Slower songs like “How Are You True” give the album a welcome balance that counters tough numbers like “Portuguese Knife Fight."

Cage The Elephant's aggressiveness is slightly restrained on this album, but their energy is retained. There is no denying the presence of a Black Keys-like glaze over these smart pop-rock songs and you can also hear a Sixties-style psychedelic garage-rock influence: “Cold Cold Cold” is a good example. Despite these characteristics, Cage The Elephant’s signature is clearly here as well.

Following the release of 2013’s Melophobia, lead guitarist Lincoln Parish amicably left the band, so Tell Me I’m Pretty is the first album from Cage The Elephant as a quartet. Remaining are Matt Shultz, guitarist Brad Shultz, drummer Jared Champion and bassist Daniel Tichenor. Accompanying them is guitarist Nick Bockrath and keyboardist Matthan Minster. Auerbach also adds additional instrumentation.

Tell Me I’m Pretty reinforces the fact that Cage The Elephant is a band that welcomes a challenge, whether it’s self-imposed or the result of outside influences. When you couple this quality with the band's talent and poise, the end result is exhilarating.