Review: Cage The Elephant

October 6, 2013

“Melophobia is the hatred or fear of music…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.”

Cage The Elephant frontman Matthew Schultz explains the uneasy notion behind their third full length album, Melophobia, after almost five years of non-stop touring. Melophobia exudes a mature, smooth and composed aesthetic that still retains the exceptional rock brilliance of 2011’s Thank You, Happy Birthday and still allows for their illustrious high octane live performances.

Their artistic metamorphosis is rather unsurprising after getting lost in a relentless spiral of festival touring. Since their self-titled debut album, the rockers from Kentucky have barely stopped moving, making appearances including multiple Lollapalooza and Bonaroo sets, Coachella, Glastonbury, and our own darling Big Day Out. Their careful and calculated construction of Melophobia shows that, if they can amplify the input, they can refine the output.

The band team up with Alison Mosshart (The Dead Weather, The Kills) for It’s Just Forever, a spirited and catchy rock track that reveals parallels between the two’s classic punk rock influences. Tracks like Spiderhead, Hypocrite and Halo are sure to be crowd favourites that live up to the riotous reputation for live performances.

Watch: Cage The Elephant – Come A Little Closer

True to the album’s namesake, the band did find themselves weary of listening to music while recording the album and literally gave up listening to recorded music throughout its formation. This does not mean the album is amorphous; it is far from the truth. Schultz found himself drawing from the endless depths of EDM music and juxtaposing it with the nostalgia and grimy ambience of indie and garage rock for inspiration.

Most notably he drew on the bright ideas of the king of protest songs, Bob Dylan, telling CoS: “People always talked about Bob Dylan finding holes in music, and I wanted to do that. To find the holes in the music and fill it with stuff we weren’t hearing.” The band worked with their friend and longtime producer Jay Joyce on this album, and though at times the journey was rough, the destination was worthwhile.

Schultz’s progression as a lyricist is also evident in this album. Taking on a new approach to writing songs, Schultz set up informal open-ended interviews with family and friends to draw from their inner turmoil, truly exploring the intricacies of human nature. This shows in the track Teeth, when Schultz throws a curveball with some mid-song poetic banter about love, life, and desperation, while guitarists Lincoln Parish and Brad Schultz provide steady distortion in the style of Cage’s previous albums.

Cage’s debut album and Thank You, Happy Birthday were like the musical form of an 18th birthday. Rebellious, uninhibited, highly-spirited, they were finally reaching the freedom to explore creative and musical depths of their aptitudes. Melophobia is the next logical progression from that. Now a few years older, a few years wiser, and with a broken nose that hasn’t quite healed as a memento of those unruly days, the band have found a certain stability and complacency with the world that is at odds with their earlier raw rock and roll edge. This album is a reflection of a band who are finding their creative strengths, polishing their style, but still pushing the artistic and musical envelope in as many ways as possible.

Melophobia was released digitally on Friday, 4th October.