Key Tracks: “Come A Little Closer,” “It’s Just Forever”
Cage the Elephant’s previous album, 2011’s “Thank You Happy Birthday,” was a nearly-perfect throwback to the early 90’s grunge bands like Mudhoney, Pixies and the Meat Puppets. “Melophobia” kicks it back even further, embracing that sound with healthy doses of 60’s harmonies and 70’s rhythms.
On the whole, the songs on “Melophobia” are not quite as fast or rowdy as those on the predecessor, but previous great ballads like “Rubber Ball” and “Back Against the Wall” have shown us that the band can handle pretty much whatever they feel like trying to do. They do have moments of speed and distortion, the best being “It’s Just Forever,” a song that has a great guest spot from Alison Mosshart and sounds more like a Libertines-style garage song than anything else. “Teeth” also starts off as a late-album surprise with this speed, until it turns into music behind spoken word (something many bands try, usually unsuccessfully – it isn’t great here). This is a different Cage the Elephant, sonically, but not fundamentally. They’re still embracing decades worth of influence on each song.
Opening track “Spiderhead” has a backing keyboard beat that gives it a funky rhythm – like Fitz and the Tantrums waking up on the wrong side of the bed. Second track and leadoff single “Come a Little Closer” is a ballad in the same way 2011’s “Right Before My Eyes” is; it’s a pretty song, one that acknowledges the roughness behind it. Cage the Elephant has a way of making radio-friendly songs out of wild rhythms and rough vocals, and they continue that on “Melophobia.” The 60’s odes hit a peak on “Telescope,” whose chorus is lifted from a famous John Lennon quote (also, happy birthday John. Well timed, guys).
This album isn’t as inherently memorable as the two previous, because the songs feel a little more conventional on this album. On the whole, it doesn’t quite stand up to the band’s first two. But it is still a very enjoyable album. The band’s blending of typical structures and off-the-rails energy sounds even more perfected now, and they’re using 90’s angst on top of funkier rhythms and harmonies that sound straight from the 60’s. Although it’ll take a number of listens to learn, it further cements Cage the Elephant as one of alternative’s most unique and underrated bands.
If you like this, try: My all-time favorite album – Foxygen’s 2013 album “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic,” a self-referential indie duo ripped straight from Lou Reed.
-By Andrew McNally