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Cage the Elephant Pushes the Envelope

Jimmy Kemper | Monday, October 7, 2013

“‘Melophobia’ is the hatred or fear of music,” Cage the Elephant’s frontman Matthew Schultz has been quoted saying. “I’ve always read of musicians that couldn’t stand their own music or the sound of their own voice. Now I understand that. To critique something to the point you literally can’t do it anymore. To literally go crazy from it.”

Schultz illustrates the tenuous approach to “Melophobia,” the third album from the Bowling Green, Ky., rockers. “Melophobia,” released today, takes the band in an unprecedented direction, shifting from the raw, aggressive tones that marked their two previous releases toward a more refined, organic composition that still retains the band’s signature unrelenting energy and high ambitions. 

The shift in sound is not all that shocking, considering the intensity with which the group has been touring since their first, self-titled album was released in 2008, hitting almost every festival imaginable. With “Melophobia,” Cage the Elephant has finally settled down and given themselves the opportunity to reflect upon their work, which has resulted in a largely successful album that pushes rock music forward into uncharted territories. For this record, the band says they stopped listening to recorded music almost entirely to avoid outside influences and allow their own inherent style to come through.

This focus on style is immediately apparent from the album’s lead track, “Spiderhead,” kicking off with a grungy opening that transitions into smooth lyrics, rocking riffs and an absolutely radical chorus. This song shows off a lighter, more fun side of Cage the Elephant that was not as readily apparent in the band’s second album, “Thank You Happy Birthday.”

Next on the album is “Come a Little Closer,” which alone could be enough to sell the album. This lead single has a smooth, mellow sound about it that is just about perfect.

One of the best songs on “Melophobia” is “Telescope,” a totally unanticipated song from the band that brought us brutally raw hits such as “In One Ear” and “Aberdeen.” It gives off an almost David Bowie-esque psychedelic vibe, filled with slower, cosmic sounds that send the listener off to a far and distant galaxy. The lyrics dig into the soul, showing just how much this band has grown since their start just a few years ago.  

The band also teamed up with The Dead Weather’s singer Allison Mossheart to record “It’s Just Forever,” which explodes with dark, gritty energy that is a nice boost of intensity after the two previous more mellow tracks. The chaotic piano riff ends this track perfectly, summarizing Mossheart’s insanity in the song just right. 

Other notable tracks include “Take It or Leave It,” a smooth, reggae-inspired ballad that really highlights bassist Daniel Tichenor’s awesome bumping beat. “Halo” is sure to be a fan favorite, with classic, steady distortion that progresses nicely with solid transitions. The song is very upbeat but has dark lyrics, a juxtaposition that it is absolutely Cage the Elephant. 

“Teeth” is definitely the curveball track on this album. It’s a rambunctious, riotous throwback to the craziness in past songs such as “Indy Kidz” and “Judas.” When Schultz asks “Are you into the beat?” the answer is a resounding yes. The second half of this track is especially unique, with Schultz delivering the lyrics in a poetic fashion that is undeniably awesome. 

“Melophobia” closes with “Cigarette Daydreams,” a fun way to end the album. The acoustic guitar is a nice contrast to the rocking distortion of the rest of this eclectic collection, while the light piano carries the listener off into a blissful sunset. 

If you’re a long time listener of Cage, “Melophobia” may initially feel slightly confusing at first because it is so radically different from their previous works. But the album is definitely worth the listen for fans and first time listeners alike because this is where the group has finally defined themselves, polished their style and refined their creative strengths, pushing the rock genre into daring new frontiers and explosive uncharted territories.  

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