March 2, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
In 2008 Cage The Elephant dropped their frantic, eponymous debut and forced the music world to stand up and take notice. The Kentucky five-piece sold nearly half a million copies of an album that straddled rock, punk and – dare we say it – funk, whilst cementing their reputation as furious, unpredictable live performers. The quintet have returned with the follow-up, ‘Thank You Happy Birthday’. Dan Swinhoe reveals how it sounds…
Straight away this is a different band to the last album; a fuzzy guitar intro leads into a slow and menacing vocal line. Hypnotic sounds fade in and out in the background, until it shifts up a gear in the middle, reassuring you that they haven’t lost touch with their old sound either. It’s definitely Cage, but in a more sinister mood than before.
A grunge intro feeds into an even grungier bass’n’vocal chorus that pays tribute toNirvana and ‘Superunkown’-era Soundgarden. Matt Shultz’s vocals move from softly spoken to a roar, then back down to end on a reverb-soaked whisper.
Opening with Shultz admitting he wants to be “just like you”, ‘Indy Kidz’ brims withQueens Of The Stone Age-esque noise and energy. The drums drive the song while the guitars create huge riffs. The cynicism of lines like “I need to get the right haircut” are surrounded by screams and feedback. This is brutal and heavy. Very heavy.
‘Shake Me Down’
This song harks back to their debut, but still uses the grungey loud-quiet dynamic. Starting with just drums and vocals, it builds with some sharp chords before everything climaxes in the chorus. It has more of a lighter mood, even sounding hopeful compared to the raw aggression of the earlier songs.
‘2024’ is hyper-Cage; simple chords and drums underpin the simple-but-rapidly-delivered vocals. It’s punky, catchy and straight to the point, the slow bass part in the middle leading to a speed-up-and-run towards the finish.
Another short, sharp attack. The fervrent lyrical attack is hard to keep up with, and the chorus is backed by more huge fuzz noises before breaking off into more QOTSAjamming. All within two minutes. Exhausting.
This is the first real let up, a slow quiet number, a sweet guitar refrain accompanying an almost nursery rhyme of a vocal line. A breather after what’s been a hectic ride up to this point.
‘Right Before My Eyes’
A mid-paced number that pays homage to surf rock with the harmonising background vocals. The lyrics are still the dark melancholy that Cage do so well, but with a real pop sheen. A good contender to be the next single.
‘Around My Head’
Opening with what sounds like kazoos, ‘Around My Head’ is a bit of a pop-punk number, with an “Ooo ooo, ah ah” bridge. Probably the most familiar sound to their debut, with some of the vocals switching from sweet to savage and some nifty fret work.
The awesomely named ‘Sabertooth Tiger’ opens with hectic drums and gets noisier for the chorus, Shultz warning you to “run away from the beast”. The slow bass in the middle leads to some more psychedelic squeals before the false end surprises you by kicking back into things. It’s aggressive and should be a great one to see live.
Bit strange this one, opening with more surf rock style harmonies before cutting into some speedy drum work and bouncy guitars. The screams of the chorus catch you off-guard. As with most of the songs there’s a twist, it takes a left turn and turns into a melodic sing-a-long. A fun detour before the end.
Another quiet one, the bass thumps away while a soft drum roll keeps you on your toes. The vocals are soft and catchy, and while there’s no surprises or turns, it’s a wind down after a tension-filled album.
‘Right Before Your Eyes (Reprise)’
A hidden track at the end of ‘Flow’, it’s a re-worked acoustic version that has a different feel to the original; less surf rock and more sadness with the lyrics making more of an impact. Brings everything to a solemn conclusion.
Original at: http://www.the-fly.co.uk/words/features/9226/cage-the-elephant-‘thank-you-happy-birthday’-//-first-listen