Following their self titled debut album in 2009, putting them as an alternative rock favorite with three successful singles in the charts, the members of Cage the Elephant refused to let the popularity affect them. After some frustration of song ideas they created while in Europe, Cage the Elephant came up with fresh ideas during a short but busy return to their home state Kentucky. This spawned the recent release of the second album, Thank You, Happy Birthday and the band only developed their musical abilities even further.
The single “Shake Me Down” stands out as the obvious hit from the album, with an energetic drum break to contradict the gentle individual picking of the two electric guitars. The song builds up to a louder riff, with singer Matt Shultz building into some raspy vocals before a repetitive dream-like ending. On a first run though of the album the contrasting sounds found in “Shake Me Down” are popular in the rest of the album. If you were to listen to one part of “2024” or “Japanese Buffalo” and took off your headphones and put them on during another section, it might sound like a different song.
From the buzzing sound of the bass on “Shake Me Down,” to the celebration of insanity in “Indy Kids” with uncontrolled bursts of screams, makes the album sound very unique and trippy. Schultz sounds eerily similar to Pixies frontman Black Francis. One main theme transposed in the album is Cage the Elephant’s criticism of society. “Sell Yourself” may be the most aggressive of the songs carrying this attitude with anger toward people willing to give into something for financial purposes. The song “Rubber Ball” jumps out at the listener because after so much intense screaming and loud songs, Shultz plays a quiet melody on his guitar by himself. It’s the softest song but emotional, where Shultz confesses his feelings of loneliness and that “all I’ve got is a little bit of love.”
One aspect that carries onto Thank You, Happy Birthday and will continue to allow Cage the Elephant to produce hits, is the ear the band has for catchy choruses and hooks. After listening to the album, good luck trying to get songs like “Aberdeen,” “2024” and “Right Before My Eyes” out of your head.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-½
Key Tracks: “Shake Me Down”, “Sell Yourself” and “Rubber Ball”.
Recommended if you like: Cold War Kids, Silversun Pickups & Band of Skulls .
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!