Cage the Elephant releases Tell Me I’m Pretty
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Around the break of midnight, I sat in a small, poorly ventilated room with my feet positioned laxly over my desk, and my arms dangling lifelessly down from the faux leather swivel chair I was slouched in.
My eyes focused in and out of a moth dancing erratically around the room’s exposed-bulb lighting. My head was getting weary, my eyes on the verge of closing, but my mind was kept alive and throbbing from the music serenading my thoughts. It is at this point that I made my final opinions on Cage the Elephant’s new album, Tell Me I’m Pretty.
Released Friday, December 18th, Tell Me I’m Pretty is the band’s fourth non-live album. In 2008, Cage the Elephant released their first record, self-titled Cage the Elephant with a unique, alternative rock-punk style featuring their first big hit Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked which soon lost its support from the hipster community after it back-tracked the 2009 Borderlands commercial.
It was after their 2013 album Melophobia that I began to take the group seriously.
Altering their style, with the mind-expanding, trippy feel of Come a Little Closer, the band came back from the dead thanks to their appeal to the rising modern counter-culture psychedelic movement.
From this switch of style, I was not sure what to expect from Cage the Elephant’s new album. Was I going to be transported by colors and sounds to a strange part of my mind? Was I going to feel the urge to lie on my back in a drifty haze of nostalgia as I did the first time I heard Cigarette Daydreams?
After approximately fifteen minutes of listening to Tell me I’m Pretty, one might learn that it is the musical equivalent of Susy from kindergarten, the girl who kissed your cheek only for your chocolate pudding at recess. In other words, a tease.
Each song on the record has an intriguing musical lyrical intro; however, while some songs deliver what you’re looking for, most are on the verge of being really incredible, only to remain centimeters away from the line.
A prime example of this would be the track Too Late to Say Goodbye in which a dark, mystical, slow-strummed drum/guitar intro caught my attention. Followed by this, an intriguing opening line:
“Oh my precious ember burning my sweet glowing light
From the moment I first saw you I was yours and you were mine
Deep down we both knew you were trouble by design
And the echo of my mother’s words, ‘baby don’t you play with fire’ ”
I leaned my head back eager to hear the story that followed such a hooking verse, only to hear a semi-catchy chorus, a decent instrumental section, and another verse which mimicked the opening one.
Misleading also was the guitar riff in Cold, Cold, Cold. The track features Carlos Santana-style hand drums, and a partial 60’s-style swagger. Halfway through the song, as the hand drums build slowly, and a vintage tube amp feedback blares, I closed my eyes, waiting to hear a groovy, electric Latin, Black Magic Woman-level solo. With all the buildup; however, a simple small-bend riff was produced.
With the teasing nature set aside, Cage the Elephant produced a stylistic ten-song album. Each track, although lyrically and musically “on the verge”, had a unique personality and catchy nature. In fact, one might find that it was tracks on this album which were not trying too hard to be poetic, or structurally advanced, which had the most admirable style.
The most popular song, Mess Around mixes a modern alternative rock feel with the vintage swagger of 1960’s San Francisco party music. Drop the needle on this track, close your eyes, and one can feel as if he’s in Saint Marks Place, New York, 2013. The song begins with a harmonic guitar strumming, loud bass line, and punchy drum beat that screams “T-Mobile Commercial”.
With a drifty, unique personality, Tell Me I’m Pretty is a perfect mix between the style and electronic mind-expansion of Melophobia, and the danceability and energy of the band’s debut album. Besides their common failure to deliver the power and complexity that their intros and opening verses offer, Cage the Elephant’s unwavering ability to create a hybrid genre of music can not be overlooked.
Whether you are driving in the summer, dancing at a party, or lying on the floor, Tell Me I’m Pretty is bound to enhance the experience.