Having an album debut in the top 5 of the US Billboard 200 Album Chart is a pretty commendable feat for any artist, even more so for those of the more indie rock persuasion. Cage The Elephant’s second album Thank You, Happy Birthday took most people by surprise when it entered the chart at number 2 in 2011. An unexpectedly successful record perhaps, but definitely a deserving assortment of charming alt-rock numbers. The Kentucky band are back and hope to repeat this success with their third LP Melophobia, a bold collection of 10 somewhat differing songs, can such a genre hopping record work without creating a shambles?
The, for lack of a better word, indecisive sound of the album is showcased quite evidently on the first three tracks. Opener Spiderhead is a lo-fi scuzzy garage rock affair featuring sharp guitars, plonking piano and distorted vocals seeing singer Matthew Shultz yelling bitter words “You know I’m gonna be all right, You may take my eyes, but baby I’m not blind” to an ironically joyful tune. However the light-hearted fuzz rock track is followed by single Come A Little Closer, a mellower and downright groovy effort that bursts into an explosively dramatic chorus. Its a seismic musical shift that is then repeated when third track Telescope takes over, a slow rolling guitar ballad that wouldn’t sound totally out of place on an early 2000’s Beck record.
Indeed something quite revealing about Melophobia is how it sees the band experimenting and indulging enough to produce some of their most subtle songs to date. Take It Or Leave It with 60’s influenced jangly guitars and tambourine rhythms is a particularly enjoyable affair whilst Hypocrite plods along nicely in the fashion of many Brit Pop classics. Its a nice side to a band who are better known for their more explosive singles, though fans of the band’s wilder side won’t feel left out. The hectic and jittery penultimate track Teeth is the kind of track that will have all movers and shakers… well… moving and shaking as Shultz moans “Shut up and dance”. Similarly Black Widow dominates the middle of the record as particularly catchy fuzz rock track that 90s Alt Rock legends Pavement forgot to write.
Self indulgent as the record may be, it thankfully doesn’t feel like the kind of album you have to be in love with the band to enjoy. The admittedly drastic intention of making a record of songs they wanted rather than a formulaic album that follows the conventions of most popular albums is quite an admirable one, especially when the LP is far from lacking in energy. It may not flow particularly easily and predictable single material might be lacking but all in all Melophobia is one enjoyable mess of a record. However much fun the band had in creating this heck of a chaos, they can rest assured in the knowledge that the listener will have plenty too.
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