Cage the Elephant is a band I have been a fan of for a few years now. To be honest, when I was first starting to get into music more seriously, I would listen to them quite a bit. Their self-titled debut album still holds up for me and while I am not crazy about Thank You Happy Birthday, I absolutely adored Melophobia and would easily consider it their best work. This led to some higher expectations for Tell Me I’m Pretty. Especially when I found out that Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys was producing this. Cage the Elephant, while consistently entertaining, has never been on the same level as other alternative rock bands that have inspired them so I was hoping that Auerbach would be able to give them that extra push to do something great.
The first time I listened through this album I was not overly impressed. While I instantly noticed Auerbach’s fingerprints all over the project, only a handful of tracks seemed memorable to me. Upon a few more listens I started to realize this was due to my own expectations. This album is more personal and raw than Cage the Elephant’s previous work and that is definitely because of the production.
Songs like “Too Late to Say Goodbye” and “How Are You True” seem much softer and mellower than typical songs by this band. I think this was an interesting direction to take these songs considering most of their previous singles have been different in tone. I think Cage the Elephant was able to tackle this new pace well and I think it paid off for them to change their style a bit with this new record.
That is not to say that these songs are all slow and calm. Just look at the single “Mess Around,” which is clearly influenced by El Camino era Black Keys, that have energy while still feeling new and not overly-produced thanks to Auerbach’s production that has the music sound more natural and real.
Matt Shultz’ vocals also continue to add the same unique sound that has helped Cage the Elephant stand out from other alternative rock bands over the years. While his vocals were consistently enjoyable and worked well with the production and instrumentation, I found that he did not deliver the same level of performance as he did on Melophobia. While I realize they are much different records, I was still hoping for something a little new from him. He is able to sell the more emotional tracks, though, which kept me satisfied.
Overall, Cage the Elephant were able to produce another consistently good album that made the smart decision to be ambitious as opposed to repeating what worked with their previous work. While this is not nearly as good as Melophobia, it still holds up well in their discography and definitely will not turn off any of their fans. I am very excited to see Cage the Elephant taking risks with their music and I hope it pays off for them in the future. As for now, they are still entertaining but have yet to prove themselves as one of the great alternative rock bands currently making music.