Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cage The Elephant Warps Melophobia

Cage The Elephant
Cage The Elephant isn't a band most people would readily expect to experiment themselves into an entirely new direction. But for anyone who wasn't convinced Thank You, Happy Birthday marked a transition, Melophobia recreates Cage The Elephant into a triumphantly fresh throwback sound for the here and now.

It wouldn't be all that surprising to think that this was the album Matthew Shultz wanted to produce three years ago. Sure, there are still some alternative rock elements ever present on Melophobia, but the thrust of it turns the creative dial back toward sixties garage rock and Brit pop with just a dash of punk.

Melophobia moves Cage The Elephant in a triumphant direction. 

The album took longer than most Cage The Elephant releases, with the band starting the creative process almost a year ago. While Shultz says that the album practically wrote itself, he also says the production was riddled with adversity. Even two months before the release date, he was still caught up in the post struggle of it.

"Part of me was very happy with it and part of me wondered whether it was just a mother's love," he said then. "There were also moments, because of all the things we went through, I couldn't stand the record."

Shultz doesn't have to wonder any more. With the album release days behind the band from Bowling Green, Melophobia has made its mark. The album is easily on par with if not better than anything the band has put out before, with Come A Little Closer providing a bridge between their old and new material.

The track, which was released in advance of the album, plays out like a post-argument lull after two combatants have said everything they have to say and are worn out by the effort. Shultz captures the moment effortlessly, matching painfully patient vocals to desperate lyrics that convey "I didn't mean to say all that" but without using those words.

"Come a little closer, baby," he beckons instead. "I feel like layin' you down on a bed of sweet surrender where we can work it all out."

Even more telling than that well-crafted track are the two that bookend it on the album. Spiderhead is a slightly paranoid sixties-styled garage rocker. Telescope is an easygoing space trip that strips away some of the trivial, meaningless, and routine of everyday mundane. It's engrossing and a casual uplift.

From there, the album gets groovy. It's Just Forever is a mildly twisted and almost satyrical stab at pledging eternal love. The song is punctuated by several lines belted out by the always brilliant guest Alison Mosshart (The Kills, The Dead Weather, and anybody who can nab her for one track).

The diverse sampling of sound continues on with the driving, sometimes surfy indie rockers Halo and Black Widow, the ease and sentimentality of the effects-rich Hypocrite, and the distorted snarl and grind of Teeth. The last track, Cigarette Daydreams, brings everything back down into a melodic daydream hum-along.

With only ten tracks, all of them tightly composed and capable of standing alone, Melophopia is over before you know it. And that's almost a shame because it's around the tenth song that you begin to realize Shultz (vocals), Brad Shultz (guitar), Lincoln Parish (rhythm guitar), Daniel Tichenor (bass), and Jared Champion (drums) just produced their finest album.

Melophobia By Cage The Elephant Soars 9.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Some people will likely ding the album for the abundance of ideals that make it all too apparent that all five members did significant work on their own. At the same time, that speaks to the beauty of the album. Any time a band spends five heavy touring years on the road, takes some time to invest in their individual lives, and then reunites with an ensemble of different directions, there is sure to be something surreal about the experience.

In this case, the experience plays out as an impeccably entertaining third album. You can find Melophobia by Cage The Elephant on Amazon. You can also find the LP at Barnes & Noble or download it from iTunes. The band will begin touring in the fall, opening for Muse (although some fans wonder if it's time that this band starts to headline). Touring dates can be found on Facebook.
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