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Cage The Elephant - Social Cues (Album Review)

Thursday, 25 April 2019 Written by Grant Jones

Photo: Neil Krug

Since their introduction to the world in 2008, with the huge single Ain't No Rest For The Wicked and their subsequent self-titled debut, Cage The Elephant have spent their career fluttering between genres, attempting to keep their audience guessing.

It has seen them tear away from their bluesy roots, meander through paranoid surf-rock and slowly gravitate towards arena-sized alt-rock. Although these shifts have alienated some fans, they have also teed up big festival slots and a Best Rock Album Grammy Award for 2015’s ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’. Their latest LP, ‘Social Cues’, is another giant leap, only it’s into the pool of mundanity that often awaits those seeking crossover success.

Opener Broken Boy promises plenty, and perhaps even a return to the manic rhythms of their second album, ‘Thank You, Happy Birthday’.

But, while one hopes they’ve been listening to Australian psych-rock giants King Gizzard and taken a few ‘social cues’ of their own, instead it appears they have been studying the career of Kings of Leon. Here they appear to be following their sad path from dirty, gritty rock band to radio friendly alt-pop gods.

The rest of the album is so underwhelming that barely another song is worthy of mention. Even a guest appearance from Beck on Night Running, something that usually elevates bog standard tracks to at least cult level, manages to add no magic at all. There is a verse-chorus-verse drudgery throughout that is no more evident that on lead single Ready To Let Go, a pandering, sycophantic pop song that was built for that role.

Lyrically and thematically, ‘Social Cues’ also fails to live up to expectations. The breakdown of anybody’s marriage will change tone and content, but Matt Shultz doesn’t manage to harness the pain and add colour as Beck did on his similarly focused, seminal 2002 album ‘Sea Change’.  Moments of hope, such as House of Glass, make it sound like Cage The Elephant want to return to the power of old, but they have forgotten how. As a whole the record falls short of capturing the raw energy and sneering attacks that fuelled their rise.

Changes in direction and artistic output are always welcome, and contemporaries such as Arctic Monkeys have managed this with each new reinvention. If Cage The Elephant had followed this lead, and indulged in some sharp experimentation, they could be forgiven for putting out a dud. Instead we are offered an attempt to retain their place as one of the biggest alt-rock bands in the game, and it shows.

Cage The Elephant Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri June 14 2019 - LONDON Heaven
Mon June 17 2019 - EDINBURGH Liquid Room
Tue June 18 2019 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute2 Birmingham

Click here to compare & buy Cage The Elephant Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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