Cage The Elephant
Thank You Happy Birthday


3.0
good

Review

by Fugue USER (58 Reviews)
January 8th, 2011 | 77 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If you listen carefully enough, it’s possible to distinguish the sounds of a band finding their feet.

Around about two years ago Cage the Elephant introduced themselves to the music scene with a bang. In One Ear, the single which identified the group's ambitions, was a swashbuckling assault of the senses; a channel for the band’s fractious spirit, bound together by tight instrumentation and an unforgettable chorus. Unfortunately the rest of their self-titled debut album failed to compound on the mesmeric reverie that the lead single induced and as a result any underlying themes of revolt were watered down and lost amongst the mediocrity. With their sophomore effort, it’s clear that in the two years since Cage the Elephant was unleashed on the masses the band that crafted it are long gone. In their place a newly mature group have formed and where the personnel remain the same, the collective attitude has altered remarkably.

The biggest difference apparent on Thank You, Happy Birthday is the dramatic shift in influences. The bluesy funk-rock that made up Cage the Elephant has been replaced by a diverse collection of alt-rock and post-punk in order to appeal to a wider audience. On the Pixies-esque Aberdeen and the fantastically ironic Indy Kidz, vocalist Matt Shultz flaunts a wide array of talent and his ability to change at will from a high pitched yelp to a murmured drawl hints at a new found proficiency. However, as if to balance out these highpoints, a fragility of the record can be found just round the corner. Being the most similar in sound to their debut album, it’s somewhat surprising that 2024 is the weakest track on the album with easily forgettable riffs and shaky vocals. Similarly disappointing is the following effort Sell Yourself, where another unusually poor vocal performance impedes an otherwise well-structured track. Missteps like this are only to be expected, of course, but the overall result of Thank You, Happy Birthday is an emotional tenderness that was absent for so much of Cage the Elephant . Perhaps the best example of this new found intimacy is on Right Before My Eyes, where the urgency takes a hard-earned break in favour of building an emotional connection with the listener. The radio friendly nature of the track points toward a single release, and its succinct, perceptive lyrics are even better second time round, set acoustically at the back end of Flow.

In a way, Thank You, Happy Birthday suffers from the same basic flaw that its predecessor did, namely that there are simply too many average tracks for an album with such lofty pretensions. The audible changes were made too rapidly to remain faultless and the band overstretches on a regular basis, leading to an uneven listening experience. Despite this issue it remains a record that’s impossible to dislike. Throughout, vocalist Matt Shultz gives off the aura of a great, and though it’s impossible to transmit the unrestricted unity and atmosphere of a show onto a record, be damned if Cage the Elephant don’t try. And in the end, this is the biggest surprise about Thank You, Happy Birthday because for all the restrained energy and would-be rebellion that Cage the Elephant contained it is nothing compared to the indomitable connection found here.

Thank You, Happy Birthday is many things to Cage the Elephant. Aside from the obvious it’s a new-found method of escape from the oppression that was name dropped so abundantly on their debut album but it’s also a record that sees them progress at a fundamental level; this is the album of a band that finally realises their own hypocrisy. At the end of the day, if they continue to improve at a steady rate, then Cage the Elephant will achieve great things. For this potential to be realised, a quality control factor needs to be introduced to any subsequent releases, with sub-par tracks discarded so that the really good ones can stand amongst equals. Whether or not this will happen is a question only Mr Shultz and company can answer but if Thank You, Happy Birthday is anything to go by, then I wouldn’t bet against it.

Recommended Tracks
Aberdeen
Indy Kidz
Right Before My Eyes
Flow

Overall 3.0 Good



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Fugue
January 8th 2011


7353 Comments


Streaming somewhere on Myface or something.

Spec
January 8th 2011


27179 Comments


Very good review.

DanteCuomo
January 8th 2011


381 Comments


Can't stand this band aside from that one decent single a while back, and even that was fairly annoying.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2011


7343 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Wouldn't mind hearing this, but the stream wouldn't work for me

Fugue
January 8th 2011


7353 Comments


Thanks Spec, much appreciated.

Ali, the stream wouldn't actually work for me either, I think it's a UK thing. I'm told it works in other countries but if it doesn't I'll take the review down until the release date.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
January 8th 2011


7343 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I thought it would be something like that...

ebay
January 8th 2011


501 Comments


Great review. Haven't made it through this whole album yet, but I think I will end up giving it the same rating.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
January 8th 2011


2682 Comments


Great review for a garbage album.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
January 8th 2011


7307 Comments


Great review - thorough, effective, and classy. Have a pos.

And congrats on the feature!

Digging: U2 - Songs of Innocence

DarthMarshall
January 8th 2011


18 Comments


Well written review. I wouldn't have been interested in this band after listening to their mediocre debut, but this review makes me curious enough to give it a spin.

Schizophrenik
January 8th 2011


842 Comments


most of the songs on their debut were forgettable but they had a couple good singles and catchy choruses burred underneath it all. I'll be interested if this is any more consistent.

Fugue
January 8th 2011


7353 Comments


Haha awesome I got featured. This isn't really anymore consistent than their first and I hoped to get that through in the review. The main difference is that the bad songs here aren't quite as bad as the bad ones on their debut, and the good songs are arguably better. I'd suggest listening to a couple of my recommendations but if you don't get much out of them then the album's probably not worth your time.

Schizophrenik
January 8th 2011


842 Comments


I'm sure if I read the whole review I woulda got that but I just kinda skimmed it.

I do like this band though so I'll listen to you're suggestions

Gyromania
January 9th 2011


15783 Comments


Holy mother fucking sexy ass review, bitch. This was a great read, Ross, definitely deserving of a feature =] Keep at it!

Digging: Lantlos - .neon

Jethro42
January 9th 2011


12456 Comments


Not interested in it. I only know their song 'Aint no rest for the wicked'. Not bad.

MaskAtTheMasquerade
January 9th 2011


2887 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

review is great

Fugue
January 9th 2011


7353 Comments


Woah thanks guys, it's nice to know people are reading this.

Jethro, nothing on here is really like "Ain't no rest for the wicked" and given your prog tastes yeah, I don't think this is for you really.

Jethro42
January 9th 2011


12456 Comments


^ Thanks for the confirmation, dude. I did read the review me too (good one!) and I then realized this release is even less appealing to me then the previous one.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 9th 2011


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Holy R.P.Coltrane feature. I always said this guy had potential. Rosco, you're like the Theo Walcott of Sputnik. You're great... on occasions. :-)

Always been meaning to get into this band... Still unsure whether it's worth it or not though.

Fugue
January 9th 2011


7353 Comments


As always, thanks Davey. I have a feeling I might be showing my "potential" more often this year, and this isn't a bad way to start.

Knowing you, you'd probably dig this to an extent, but quality-wise it's still lacking a fair bit and I don't think it's justifiably any more than a 3.5 maximum.

Did you listen to any of their first album, like the singles and what-not? Not that this is much like them but yeah.



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