Cage The Elephant



by Alex Carlson USER (72 Reviews)
October 3rd, 2013 | 159 replies

Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The most unsettling thing about Cage the Elephant's third studio album is that it's so settled itself.

During the recording of Thank You, Happy Birthday, Cage the Elephant frontman Matt Shultz said he wanted each of the album’s songs “to sound like it’s been written by a different band.” Truth be told, it really did sound varied, a cornucopia of diverse musical influences that, above all odds, made the album more immersing than distracting. But that makes it very hard to believe that the band’s third studio album, Melophobia, is from the same band. While Thank You, Happy Birthday was an eclectic album that, shockingly, didn’t distract in the least, Melophobia doesn’t divert from its completely different trajectory in the slightest. It’s a surprisingly settled record, one that abandons that intentional lack of assurance the band blossomed with in their previous record.

Cage the Elephant’s energetic and rambunctious punk style present in their debut has left the building; these guys have taken a lot of chill pills since “In One Ear.” Soothing distortion effects quell the razor-sharp punk fundamentals the band demonstrated early on in their music career; it’s a smoother and dreamier album. Vocalist Matt Shultz himself has clearly been listening to a lot of MGMT, as his screams are replaced with falsetto and sliding melodies across tracks like “Take It or Leave It” or “Black Widow” (the latter being a clear callback to MGMT’s “Electric Feel”).

“It’s Just Forever” brings The Kills’ Alison Mosshart on board as guest vocalist (an appropriate choice considering how similar Melophobia sounds to the music from Mosshart’s other band, The Dead Weather). Mosshart’s grimy, bluesy singing style is a great contribution to the track, where guitarists Lincoln Parish and Brad Shultz grind and muffle their sounds with near-constant distortion. Daniel Tichenor’s smooth bass guitar lines are all the more noticeable in Melophobia; the slower pace tones down the power-chord guitar blitzkriegs and effect-laden falsetto of Matt Shultz. The band’s love of classic alt rock like The Pixies and modern indie like MGMT is front and center on Melophobia. Songs like the swoony “Hypocrite” are clean fodder for the pop crowd, sounding like something that wouldn’t be out of place on a modern Gorillaz record.

A huge exception to this newly established rule for Cage the Elephant is “Teeth,” a revving rocker that, while not reaching the blistering pace of “Judas” from their debut album or “Indy Kidz” from Thank You, Happy Birthday, still shows that these Kentucky outsiders still have the chops to go nuts in the recording studio. The song makes a big left-turn after the first half, with Matt Shultz narrating in a muffled, but poetic manner. It’s probably the only concrete example of Cage the Elephant’s now-distant past on the album.

Thank You, Happy Birthday was the work of a band in adolescence, steadily moving into maturity, but still not experienced enough to make something pristinely clean and refined enough to be called “grown-up.” The melody was stronger and the abrasion wasn’t as undefined. It was rough, but that remainder of exciting childhood rebellion is what made Thank You, Happy Birthday so remarkable. The ballads were complimented by ravenous alt-punk intensity; it was a scrambled gem not unlike R.E.M.’s Green. Melophobia is a harder animal to get excited about since that juvenile spirit is not the focus anymore (or even visually present at all).

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Well, Cage the Elephant does take this shift in sound very seriously. This is by no means an imitational album; the band members’ love and reverence for The Beatles is all the clearer, which allows for melody and songwriting to stand in place of unbound energy. The first single “Come a Little Closer” has a marvelous, echoing guitar slide during the chorus, all with Matt Shultz mixing up his vocals with falsetto and lower, almost hushed mumble. But this single, oddly enough, represents what Cage the Elephant are trying to go for with Melophobia: steady, classic rock-influenced music instead of crowd-brewing mosh pit adrenaline. It’s not a bad decision that the band is letting their Beatles and Beach Boys fandoms come alive; it’s just a very abrupt decision.

Melophobia is not going to be met with instant acclaim, especially if you got into Cage the Elephant through their debut album. Even those who loved Thank You, Happy Birthday will find the more constructed and less raw aesthetic of Melophobia to be very disorienting. The band has proved their commitment to evolution in a tight and admirable way, but in that way, they’ve abandoned a big part of what got them such a following to begin with. Gone is the loose punk world, replaced with an emotive and brewing development that focuses more on careful buildup than imprecision. Cage the Elephant have officially grown up with Melophobia, and while some will appreciate the band’s metamorphosis into “think first” musicians, some will just want the band to stay kids forever.

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user ratings (224)
other reviews of this album
snydely (4)
Less juvenile than their earlier albums, which proves to be their key to success....

Nathan Taft (3.5)
Cage the Elephant finally makes the music they want to, and the results are both bizarre and satisfy...

apokolypz (4)
They know what to do now....

Comments:Add a Comment 
October 3rd 2013


Album Rating: 3.0

Stream on Soundcloud (here on Loudwire):

Green Baron
October 3rd 2013


loved s/t. hated thank you.

come a little closer was pretty good

October 3rd 2013


Enjoy that the Beck influences got dropped, and that they're moving into their own sound.

October 3rd 2013


These guys rip-off the pixies in the worst way.

October 4th 2013


This band is awesome, need to hear this

October 4th 2013


Have never been too fond of this band, they absolutely sucked when I saw them live. The new single that they released isn't convincing me to change my mind either

October 4th 2013


I've thought everything these guys have released so far has been painfully average. Singles are usually good though.

October 4th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

I liked the Beck-influenced sound these guys had, so if that's gone on this, I won't be as interested.

October 4th 2013


Opening three tracks are absolutely sensational. '90s euphoric slacker rush

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October 22nd 2013


Album Rating: 3.0

I agree with zakalwe, the first three tracks are absolutely sublime.

November 10th 2013


Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This is such an amazing album tbh.

November 10th 2013


Album Rating: 3.0

this is just another slightly above average rock record from a band i still believe has a ton of potential

November 10th 2013


Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Opinions, I think I'll actually 5 this, it's so damn good. I believe Cage The Elephant finally discovered what they have to do with their potential.

November 11th 2013


Magnificent, not a 5 for me, but a strong 4.5.

Green Baron
November 11th 2013


not a 5 or a 4.5

November 11th 2013


Like Magnificent said above, opinions. I really like this album. Your thoughts, green?

November 17th 2013


Haven't heard anything else from here, but "Come a Little Closer" is pretty good. The verses aren't given a lot of room to develop, though; it's almost like they're cut short in favor of the choruses, resulting in a couple of somewhat abrupt transitions. I mean the verses and chorus are very well done; I'd just be interested to see how the verses would have developed if they were given a little more time to do so.

Staff Reviewer
December 20th 2013


Album Rating: 3.6

Kentucky rockers Cage the Elephant tone down their rambunctiousness on mature 3rd LP 'Melophobia'. Produced by Jay Joyce, the psychedelic tinged garage rock on offer makes for their most focused & consistent release by far. There's still some polarizing diversity on the album's latter half, but despite the jagged guitars & Matthew Schultz's warped falsetto, the quintet showcase a keen ear for melodies. Short & sweet at 10 tracks & 37 minutes, it's not an LP to have you coming back often & could use a few memorable stand-outs, but 'Melophobia' may just be the band's best record. Recommended Tracks: Spiderhead, Come a Little Closer, Halo & Take It or Leave It.

January 7th 2014


Album Rating: 4.0

Solid 4 for me, enjoyed the majority of this album though it rubs off as average. I see a major potential in this group that could blow them above any other group if they could just tap it.

February 26th 2014


Album Rating: 3.0

Their s/t grows off of me every time I hear it. Thank You just isn't a very good album to begin with. I guess I'll give this a listen. I do like Come a Little Closer more than most of their stuff.

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