Never an easy band to pin down, Cage The Elephant have danced between grunge, blues and arena rock before the more mature depth and diversity of last album ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ saw them take home a Grammy. In the wake of a divorce and in more exploratory mood than ever, can CTE’s Matt Shultz finally lead the band to what they really are?
Opener ‘Broken Boy’ blows the album wide open with a Bowie-esque blast of space-glam, fuelled by a very modern skittering paranoia, before the title track lets a little more oxygen back in the room with some psychedelic theatre akin to MGMT. “I’ll be in the backroom, tell me when it’s over,” sings Shultz, “I don’t know if I can play this part much longer”. Quite right, as the shift from previous records and the different gears they travel through on ‘Social Cues’ really show off Cage The Elephant’s chameleon prowl between what this band can really be. Perhaps never more so than on the pop-flecked art-rock of ‘Night Running’ where the band seem to blend as one into featured artist Beck.
‘Ready To Let Go’ and ‘Dance Dance’ both pick up the thread of CTE’s bluesy, garage rock roots, but with more of a graceful control as Shultz paints a profound landscape over his recent divorce: “The sun went down over Pompeii, on both sides the vow was broken”. That raucous energy carries too through spikey post-punk of album highlight ‘House Of Glass’, but the band’s undersung widescreen approach and maturity takes centre stage on the string-soaked swoon of ‘Loves The Only Way’ as Shultz preaches, “Look out for yourself, it’s all the rage”.
‘The War Is Over’ and ‘What I’m Becoming’ both have that sombre and smokey lounge act feel of The Last Shadow Puppets or Mini Mansions, but just revisit the more refined moments on ‘Melophobia’ and ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ and you’ll realise that it’s a guise that Cage The Elephant have carried within them all along. “Seems like yesterday I was a child, just a ripple in the folds of time, I wish you well, I want to see you smile, it’s all right,” pines Shultz on the tender and intimate closer ‘Goodbye’ – another ode to the breakdown of his marriage. When all else fails, all you’re left with is yourself. This is the sound of Cage The Elephant exploring every corner of what they are.