Cage The Elephant- Thank You Happy Birthday

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March 29, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe

So while the people who think they’re cool carry on listening to Radiohead and pretending to still like MGMT, the people who are actually cool listen to Cage The Elephant.

Faced with the enormous success of 2009′s self-titled debut, how do you follow up a furious, cyclical ride that strides pop, punk, rock and even a bit of funk? The answer: do your upmost to alienate everyone who bought the last album. Also known as ‘Doing a Nirvana’.

Where the self-titled broke into the heart of what Cage were about with In one Ear, Thank You Happy Birthday opens with a slower, more sinister sounding band. not unrecognisable but by no means what anyone was expecting.

I managed to get my grubby mitts on a preview copy back in January, then like a twonk it was promptly lost a few weeks later. But in those few weeks everyone who had a listen was divided, it was love or loathe. The whole album reeks of flannel shirts and that 90s Seattle sound, most obviously on Aberdeen (a reference to Mr. Cobain’s hometown). But this is 21st Century Grunge, updated for those Indy Kidz who have a short attention span. Think In Bloom but more punked up.

Luckily Matthew Shutlz doesn’t self-loathe, he spits plenty of venom outward. yet between the aggression songs like Right Before My Eyes and Around My Head have new-found popsheen, sometimes even touching on a bit of Surf rock.

Thank You Happy Birthday has both extremes. As well as the fury of Sabertooth Tiger and 2024, the pace is slowed down to almost ballad proportions on Shake Me down Flow. Every track pushes to the edge in someway or another, tracks like Sell Yourself start to settle down into a groove but going off on a tangent. There’s nothing middle of the road or dull about it.

Cage are daring you not to like them. Anyone expecting remakes of Ain’t No Rest… will be sorely disappointed, but those willing to take a risk will be rewarded. The album grows with each listen and the already manic live shows are made even more appealing by the thought of adding songs like Sell Yourself.

It could be commercial suicide, but at least Cage The Elephant can say they went down on their own terms. And they’ve done a hell of a lot better job of making a great album to mess with their fans thanks MGMT did.

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