Melophobia - Cage The Elephant
by Josh Kinnear
THE BAND: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BAND
Cage The Elephant is an American rock band started in Bowling Green, Kentucky that originated in 2006. The members of the band include Matt Schultz (as the lyricist and vocalist), Brad Schultz (as rhythm guitarist), Daniel Tichenor(as bassist), Jared Champion (as drummer), and Lincoln Parish (as lead guitarist). In late 2013, almost directly after the release of the band’s 3rd album, Melophobia, Lincoln Parish left the band, expressing a desire to concentrate on working as a producer in the studio, as opposed to the constant and heavy touring that Cage The Elephant is known for. Since this the band has used Nick Bockrath as lead guitarist for the band’s Melophobia tour in support of the album (although they have stated he is not an official member of the band). Their style is best described as pulling qualities and influence from punk rock, classic rock, psychedelia, blues, funk, garage rock, and alternative rock. The band initially gained some popularity while living and working in London, and gained attention for their first album’s popular single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”. The band continued touring extensively and gaining a dedicated following of fans for their extremely high energy shows and personable relationship with fans (including much stage diving and inviting fans onstage, along with lots of interviews and reputation for talking to fans after shows). Since releasing their first self-entitled record Cage The Elephant has steadily grown in skill, maturity, and popularity while recording and releasing their 2 follow up albums (Thank You Happy Birthday ,and Melophobia), and touring in support of band’s such as Muse, The Stone Temple Pilots, The Foo Fighters, and The Black Keys.
THE ALBUM: BACKGROUND ON THE ALBUM
“Melophobia” is Cage The Elephant’s 3rd album, it was released on RCA Records on October8th, 2013, and was produced by Jay Joyce (who also produced their 2 other studio albums). The album continues the bands hallmark tradition of changing the style of music on each of their records dramatically. Whereas the first album was influenced by classic hard-rocking blues funk anthems, and the second was a juxtaposition of alternative-indie-punk rock soundscapes of feedback psychedelia, this third album is an emotional, mellow, and reflective experiment that is hard to describe, but their sound as a musical unit is expounded upon exponentially by their heavy use of a keyboard player, guest vocals, and a trombone-saxophone-trumpet trio on many tracks, and their revealing of EDM as a musical influence for the album. The term “melophobia” means the fear of music. The band reportedly chose this as a reference to the member’s personal struggles with what they wanted to express through the album musically, and the clashing of differences between the current desired musical directions for the band by each member during the recording process. Singer Matt Schultz has individually expressed having a sense of anxiety about how to go about writing new songs for the record while remaining an honest human being in his communication, and not get lost in writing songs he just thought he was supposed to write from the pressure of being in a popular band. He received advice from fellow Bowling Green, Kentucky musician and friend, Tiger Merritt, of Morning Teleportation, who told him "if you're not slightly embarrassed to sing the lyrics, you're probably not writing a good song,” This encouraged Shultz to try and write more how people talk and think, then to attempt to dress up the words poetically. Shultz ran with this theme throughout the writing of the album and it holds huge weight as to influencing the introspective, honest, and personal tone of the album. The album has received positive reviews across the board, and has also spawned the release of 2 music videos and singles, (“Come a Little Closer”, and “Take It Or Leave It”).
TRACKLIST: SELECTED NOTABLE TRACKS
1. SPIDERHEAD- This is the opening track on the album, and it comes from a long line of great Cage The Elephant opening tracks (“In One Ear” off their debut and “Always Something” off their sophomore). It’s a catchy high energy tune that has rightfully earned its place as a staple in the opening of their live shows. This song is a perfect transition between their old material and the stuff coming further on in the album. Definitely one of my most highly recommended songs off this album.
2. TELESCOPE- This song is a testament to Matt Schultz song writing. It is a strikingly emotional story of introspection, written in the style of totally honest human communication that he was aiming for with this record. It’s one of those rare songs that gives the listener a personal connection to the feelings expressed by the songs author, and the struggle of isolation is a universal concept anyone can relate too. It’s a calming lullaby that instead of making you sad about this struggle while listening, instead fills you with the security that you know there are others feeling the same thing. So were all truly not alone at all.
3. IT’S JUST FOREVER- By any measure this is undoubtedly the most progressive song on the album. It contains a number of first time occurrences for Cage The Elephant, most notably the use of a trombone-saxophone-trumpet trio and piano, along with making use of guest vocalist Alison Mosshart (vocalist of The Kills and The Dead Weather with Jack White). To be honest, when I heard about this track and the strange additions I was a bit nervous about if it would be good. I am pleased to say that this is now among my favorite tracks of their discography due to its uniqueness. The groovy, funky, soulful combination of the music and back and forth singing of Alison Mosshart and Matt Schultz is entrancing, and you cannot help but tap your feet and bob your head. Defiantly a standout track and a huge success in the bands experimentation. If there’s one track to listen too in curiosity about this album’s change in style for the band, this is it.
4. TEETH- This is the thrasher that’s present on every Cage The Elephant album. A loud, fast paced, scream filled high energy assault on the audience that’s leaves you saying, “OH, Fuck yeah!” It now resides among the ranks of its predecessors as a mainstay in their live shows end of the set frenzy, alongside “Tiny Little Robots” and “Sabertooth Tiger”. It is the perfect excuse to incite a mosh-pit with multiple stage dives as Matt so often does. As for its place in the album, it’s a great song to help bring the album to a close. The first section of the song is the high energy rocker that I’ve been describing, but the second section is much more interesting. It delves into insanity in a muddled static feedback instrumentation overlaid with Matt reciting some quite beautiful modern anti-societal conformity poetry that gives a great showcasing of his intelligence, his capacity for deep thought, and his ability for realistic self-analysis and criticism.
5. CIGARETTE DAYDREAMS- Here is the final song on the album. And what a close its makes. Emotionality reminiscent of “Telescope” this acoustic soliloquy gives a tone of solemn happiness and detachment. Once again joining the ranks of its predecessors (“Cover Me Again” and “Flow” respectively). This song really brings this whole experiment of an album to a very satisfactory close. It is beautiful piece of art that you may find yourself happily humming one afternoon. It leaves you finishing the album with an extremely pleasant, calm, and satisfied feeling.
OVERALL REVIEW: This album incorporates a wild number of new features to the bands repertoire, and definitely expands all their music abilities. Any album as ambitious as this can only mean growth for a band, the fact that this growing exercise happens to be a work of art is a bonus. The album is very visual and reminiscent of a painting when the soundscapes comes together and bring forth emotion as such(endorsed by the fact that lyricist Matt Shultz admitted to drawing very very often during the course of the writing process to accompany his lyrics). Instrumentally the album is a huge leap as well, as the band incorporates twice as many instruments into their music machine as usual, and (albeit defiantly sounding new and fresh to the process) they meld with the new instruments very nicely and naturally, and use them as the perfect building blocks and/or compliments to a song. Consequently, it’s a much fuller sounding wide spectrum audio then their previous records. All in all, this record is the masterpiece of an ever- evolving band at the forefront of modern rock n’ roll, and a milestone as the band’s last record written with their original guitarist(Lincoln Parish). This album has the same effect on me as all of Cage The Elephant’s other records, it leaves me impatiently drooling for more.