Album of the Week: Cage the Elephant, 'Tell Me I'm Pretty'


Cage the Elephant, 'Tell Me I'm Pretty'
Cage the Elephant, 'Tell Me I'm Pretty' (RCA Records)

     If this were any previous decade in rock's history, Cage the Elephant would probably be one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. But it's not — now 60 years removed from Elvis, rock's power and hold on culture has diminished (try as Bono and Dave Grohl might to reverse that trend). So Cage The Elephant have never been seen as A-list stars, yet their albums keep getting bigger and better — no small feat in this hyper-fast, Internet-driven decade where the new hot can become old hat faster than the next cat-video meme.

It's been a strange and unique ride so far — a bunch of Bowling Green, Kentuckians, led by brothers Matt and Brad Schultz, who were discovered at SXSW in 2007, then moved to England before releasing their debut, which went platinum behind the breakout hit "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked," a bluesy stomper. But just when one was tempted to put Cage in a cage as perhaps the next Kings of Leon or Black Crowes, they revealed themselves closer to indie rockers raised more on the Pixies than on the Allmans, with their next two albums showcasing singer Matt's Iggy-like stage presence and lyrically clever turns of phrase, while the band developed a spikey raw power that resonated with fans.

Their last album, Melophobia, was termed by Paste a "post-modern glam revival," written while the band consciously isolated themselves from their influences to find new sounds. The record filled the playlists of indie and modern rock radio with singles for more than a year, and was nominated for a Best Alternative Album Grammy.

Just when you expect them to consolidate the success of Melophobia with a big arena rocking anthem, Cage the Elephant pivot on Tell Me I'm Pretty, album number four, replacing longtime producer Jay Joyce with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. The combination of Auerbach and Cage works, creating a sound that veers from the first-take spontaneous feel of lead single "Mess Around," to the taunt spaciousness of "Too Late To Say Goodbye" and the lyrically astute "Trouble."

Auerbach seems to work best here by simplifying the mixes of extraneous elements and instruments, leaving haunting reverbs decaying into the air and building an atmosphere that allows Schultz's lyrics of self-doubt and darkness to rattle around our brains long after the sounds fade away.

Replacing any previous sonic sheen with a swampy garage psychedelia, Tell Me I'm Pretty allows Cage the Elephant to do what they do best — write intimate and powerful songs and deliver them better than just about any rock band of our time.

Audience ratings for this album

Among The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album, 100 percent gave the album 5 out of 5 stars. Poll closed at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 8.

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