Cage The Elephant
Tell Me I'm Pretty


3.0
good

Review

by PostMesmeric USER (83 Reviews)
December 19th, 2015 | 111 replies


Release Date: 12/18/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You're getting there, Cage the Elephant. Just don't mess around too much.

It’s pretty impressive how much Cage the Elephant have changed since breaking out into the alternative scene. Their 2008 self-titled debut was one of pure indie rock energy, earning them early success right out of the gate. The radio hit “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” seems like a distant memory now, because it barely sounds like the same band. Two albums later, the group dug out their old Beach Boys records and let that inspiration lead them. Their previous LP Melophobia showed these energetic youngsters in a whole new light, one of sophistication and reverence toward a dreamy age of classic rock gone by. Melophobia, flaws aside, was a turning point for Cage the Elephant, but their newest record Tell Me I’m Pretty erases any doubt of their conviction. There are some dark, ambitious tracks on Tell Me I’m Pretty, and these amazing tracks manage to fight back against its sloppy and dull missteps.

Tell Me I’m Pretty features Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach as producer and his influence isn’t hidden in the slightest. The suave, bluesy flow and rattling percussion are all over Cage the Elephant this time around. The lead single “Mess Around” sounds eerily like a lost Black Keys track, and while that’s not a bad thing (the song’s radio-friendly groove is still pretty enjoyable), it shows Cage the Elephant in a less-than-ideal light. The fuzzed-out guitars are nice, but this aesthetic tends to wear thin quickly. The second half of Tell Me I’m Pretty lacks any real standout musical moments (aside from a good little swing in “Portuguese Knife Fight”). “How Are You True” sounds like a lame B-side between Thank You, Happy Birthday and Melophobia, and lacks substance behind its spiraling dreaminess. “That’s Right” and “Punchin’ Bag” just aren’t interesting at all, trying to build upon the Melophobia framework, but without any of the creativity. The latter song is another example of Auerbach’s influence never going beyond imitation of his more prominent project. These moments manage to dry out the potential Melophobia cultivated; it simply doesn’t flow well here.

Nearly halfway through, however, Tell Me I’m Pretty takes a fascinating turn. The trifecta of tracks “Too Late to Say Goodbye”, “Cold Cold Cold” and “Trouble” are easily the best songs on the LP. “Trouble” is a dreamy ballad, bringing the band’s love of the Beatles and Beach Boys right back on stage. It’s a beautiful left turn that triumphantly stands out on the album. But “Too Late to Say Goodbye” and “Cold Cold Cold” step far away from the more upbeat tracks and get much, much darker. Both tracks echo more free-flowing blues jams, and between Brad Shultz’s nimble organ keys and Matt Shultz’s up-and-down croons, it leans toward the black magic of The Doors. It’s a musical aesthetic that’s very alien to Cage the Elephant: not many of their songs have been this unsettling, but these guys sound completely comfortable adopting it. Lesser examples of this shift in tone include “Sweetie Little Jean”, which takes some better moments from Melophobia and gives them a bit more bite. This move is astonishingly well-done, outshining the disappointing staleness of the latter half of the LP.

Cage the Elephant are proving to everyone that their punk upbringing is officially behind them. Tell Me I’m Pretty all but solidifies a desire to bring out that Sgt. Pepper fever that the band never got a chance to catch in their early years. But so many of these tracks feel duller than anything on Melophobia; while their previous LP had the novelty of taking a sharp change in aesthetic, Tell Me I’m Pretty runs in place so much in its worse moments, wasting a bold new direction for the band on uninteresting compositions. That being said, the moments where the band left turns the left turn is where the gems lie. The blood of the Beatles and the Beach Boys isn’t the only blood pulsing in these guys: the influence of Jim Morrison and the bluesy work of The Doors burst from Cage the Elephant’s veins in “Too Late to Say Goodbye” and “Cold Cold Cold.” This is a fantastic new direction for the band to delve into and these moments (along with some less-developed, but still impressive moments like “Sweetie Little Jean”) manage to push back against the duller tracks. Tell Me I’m Pretty is a mixed bag; for every bold new trail blazed sits a dull, uninteresting detour. It’s clear that Cage the Elephant are committed to this more classic-sounding aesthetic, but it’s about time these indy kidz tighten the bolts before this sound’s novelty disappears. As they say, there ain’t no rest for the wicked.



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user ratings (130)
Chart.
2.8
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
PostMesmeric
December 18th 2015


704 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Honestly, I was expecting more, but those tracks that sound like The Doors are fantastic.

deathschool
December 18th 2015


21947 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

Just listened. Didn't enjoy. Reading now.

theBoneyKing
December 18th 2015


13482 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Will check but I have very low expectations.

Digging: Calexico - The Black Light

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
December 18th 2015


20383 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

well written review man. will check this out. last album I have to listen to before I make my AOTY list.

deathschool
December 18th 2015


21947 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

Well, obviously I think you give it too much credit, but well written review. Pos. I agree that there is a bit of Beach Boys and Doors influence, but it's just done so lazily.

demigod!
December 18th 2015


49264 Comments


Canned indie rawk

Digging: Shabazz Palaces - Black Up

deathschool
December 18th 2015


21947 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

Can has a few dents too.

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
December 18th 2015


20383 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

halfway through I only really liked the first two songs. Mess Around is kinda cool even if it sounds like a Black Keys song.

oisincoleman64
December 18th 2015


2157 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Damn Trouble was really good

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
December 18th 2015


20383 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah Trouble, Mess Around, and Cry Baby are the only songs I've enjoyed so far

SharkTooth
December 18th 2015


13794 Comments


Please tell me this is at least better than Thank You Happy Birthday

deathschool
December 18th 2015


21947 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

I don't think so, Shark.



(You might, idk)

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
December 18th 2015


20383 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

not sure Shark. Aberdeen and Shake Me Down > most of the songs on this album

gryndstone
December 18th 2015


908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Listening right now. Too Late To Say Goodbye/Cold Cold Cold are definitely the standout tracks. I feel like they lost any real 'punch' they had, though...

LotusFlower
December 18th 2015


12002 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Anyone who tries to say that TYHB is worse than this will be shot.

gryndstone
December 18th 2015


908 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I'm warming up to this quicker than I did to Melophobia, but its kinda boring

Ebola
December 18th 2015


2880 Comments


probably sucks tbh

JWT155
December 19th 2015


13691 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Shame because Melophobia was fantastic. I've got a soft spot for the band.

Bhurke
December 19th 2015


37 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Last track has been on repeat for longer than I wanna mention. Really liking this

wtferrothorn
December 19th 2015


5790 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

there are some nice enough tracks, but the tracks that zzzzzzzz really ZZZZZZZZZ



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