Review Summary: Less juvenile than their earlier albums, which proves to be their key to success.
What is melophobia? My trusty source (read: Google) tells me that it's a "fear of music." It's interesting that Cage the Elephant would choose to name their album this, considering that there's really nothing to be afraid of on their third album. Most recognize the Kentucky five-piece from their hit 'Ain't No Rest for the Wicked' off their 2008 self-titled debut. I liked the song but I wasn't overly crazy about it, or the rest of the album for that matter. Neither was I particularly favorable towards the band's sophomore LP. That said, I was a little hesitant about "Melophobia." Would it be another dull addition to Cage the Elephant's discography or would it be a pleasant surprise? Now that I've listened to it in its entirety, I must say it was quite the surprise. Distorted and fuzzy guitars have replaced the rambunctious punk of their earlier offerings and it's clear they've taken a couple chill pills since their last release.
A lot of the disappointment circulating the previous works of Cage the Elephant stemmed from the band's pure adolescence. It, at times, derailed into an immature "don't-give-a-damn" attitude. Don't get me wrong, this can work and it has for plenty of bands but unfortunately, they missed the mark. Now, however, the band have finally calmed down and matured themselves and their sound and, as it turns out, that was just what their music needed. Endless comparisons to alt-rock bands of the past could be made: Pixies, MGMT, even the Beatles...but making such comparisons would be missing the point. Cage the Elephant went to some great lengths to distance themselves from recorded music, shutting themselves off from it to the best of their ability. Their reasoning for this was their desire to be more "honest" musicians, and viewed the definition of melophobia (fear of music, as previously explained) not literally, but as a fear of making music to look cool rather than actually trying to send a message. In an era where image reigns supreme for most bands considered "cool," this is a gutsy step. As with any band who tries to change their sound and image, Cage the Elephant made the risk of alienating fans. But for every fan lost, they most likely gained a couple new ones.
There's a very grimy, bluesy sensibility to the music on "Melophobia." Alison Mosshart of the Kills and the Dead Weather was brought along on 'It's Just Forever.' Her presence on this album perhaps only adds to the blues-influenced sound the album was chockfull of. Her voice is a nice addition to a great song. She isn't overbearing to the point where the listener becomes sick of her, but she isn't unnoticeable to the point where the listener clamors for more of her either. There's a healthy dose of Alison Mosshart on this album, and that's all we need.
Gone is the unabashed youthfulness of Cage the Elephant's previous albums. In its place is a slower, matured sound. They've become more passionate and introspective, and when it's clear that they really care about their music, so will their audience. Though some of their fans will want them to stay young forever, more objective critics will realize that their metamorphosis into maturity has not hindered their ability to create interesting, fun rock music.