When Cage The Elephant’s self-titled debut album dropped in 2008, it had me from the word go. It was quirky, it was catchy and more importantly it was just plain fun. Now they have just released their fourth album, Tell Me I’m Pretty, and it must be said that it has made me very conflicted. The whole album is overlaid with psychedelic tones that can sometimes make certain tracks feel a little droned out and whiny, but at other times it works really well at creating the eerie undertones that the band is fairly renowned for.
A good point of comparison is between the fourth and fifth tracks: ‘Too Late to Say Goodbye’ and ‘Cold Cold Cold’ respectively. The former, despite being a technically impressive song, in my opinion can at times come across with a certain dull quality that feels unlike what I’ve come to expect from Cage. The slower, more bass-centric stylistics of ‘Too Late to Say Goodbye’ don’t work as well with lead vocalist Matthew Schultz’s voice than the upbeat, acoustic tones of ‘Cold Cold Cold’. Obviously the two songs are aiming for completely different effects, but the latter just works so much better.
The next track, ‘Trouble’, combines the acoustic sounds of ‘Cold Cold Cold’ with the pacing of ‘Too Late to Say Goodbye’, finding what is likely to be the happy medium between the band’s somewhat conflicting directions in Tell Me I’m Pretty. It is a thoroughly psychedelic and chilled out tune that reminds me somewhat of the Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds track ‘The Girl With X-Ray Eyes’ from Chasing Yesterday. Both tracks are indicative of the kind of the revival of psychedelic rock happening currently and show how it is beginning to fuse with where indie music is at today. It is with little surprise that ‘Trouble’ is the most popular Cage the Elephant track on Spotify at the moment.
However, for me, Tell Me I’m Pretty really comes into its own in the last three tracks: ‘That’s Right’, ‘Punchin’ Bag’ and ‘Portuguese Knife Fight’. Three up-beat tracks in a row is a refreshing change of pace by the time that you reach to the end of the album and it is where fans of the band’s older tracks like ‘Aint No Rest For the Wicked’ and ‘In One Ear’ are likely to feel most comfortable. In fact, with its mix of tambourines, catchy lyrics and an evidently very dark theme, ‘Punchin’ Bag’ is probably the ‘Aint No Rest For the Wicked’ of Tell Me I’m Pretty.
The only issue with the last three tracks is that they retroactively cast a shadow over the rest of the album, showing just how different the band has become over the years. The change is not necessarily a bad one because tracks like ‘Trouble’ and ‘Cold Cold Cold’ are brilliant in their own right, but it does make them feel overly melancholy and miserable in comparison to the band’s more energetic tracks. Tell Me I’m Pretty is a good album overall, but at times it does make me miss the style of the band’s first album.