Thank you Happy Birthday, Cage the Elephant (12 Jan 2011) – Back in the forefront of the music buzz is Cage the Elephant (CTE), who this week will release its second album, Thank You, Happy Birthday (TYHB). It may leave fans wondering a bit about what direction CTE are headed.
Unlike their first self-titled 2008 album, CTE has progressed into a more mature sound, and the latest unmistakably shows that the band’s progress in music style changes with time. Each track morphs into different beats and can seem a bit eccentric or confusing at times, which allows for some rough listening experiences. It gives you a pleasant atmosphere, as if you are being set up to listen to a bad-ass concert, and yet forces the group to bring their 3D concert experience in a disappointingly restrained, 2D format.
Straight away “Always Something” belts listeners into an unexpected wail of singer Matt Shultz’s bluesy voice that kind of takes you off guard and immediately gives an impression that you know you are not hearing the familiar CTE. The music is more sophisticated and it does not lack the initial charisma familiar of the first album.
It is intriguing to hear the band’s latest effort appeal once again to its die-hard fans and gain momentum with the general musical mainstream audiences. The current radio hit “Shake Me Down” and “Aberdeen” are surrounded by other complicated tracks like “Sell Yourself,” which was not a favorite to listen to. I understand that the song emphasizes the band’s commitment to staying true to itself and its own identity, but it reveled in a non-cohesive barrage of screams and incessant banging and rampage.
Thankfully, I was quickly lulled to decompress with “Rubber Ball,” maybe the only other suitable song on the entire album. “Japanese Buffalo” was a disorienting spastic of guitar riffs and redundant “uh-huhs” and “okays” by Shultz. Then suddenly, the song kind of quiets down to a slow, get-me-off of the roller coaster ride quality.
Ovations go to CTE’s determination to develop artistically, without the burdening of corporate conformity. It is not often a band has the ability to operate like rouges and be successful pulling out a brilliant album or two. They deserve much praise and respect for their ability to mature musically and move forward for a potential album of the year award. What they have done is handpick and hand craft music that personifies each member of CTE’s creative efforts. They are not afraid to push forward, take risks, absorb, and reinvent the way they make music. Not every band has the capacity to do this and be successful.
The music and the flow of TYHB will quite possibly become what its fans admired about its first debut album and most certainly will feel the same way about this one.
Do not interpret this review the wrong way. Thank You, Happy Birthday is a tediously brilliant album. It may take a bit more time to understand the true and remarkable talent and sound of the band this go around.
TYHB is not an album filled with disappointments. It’s just that CTE may need to focus on a more cohesive mix of music for the whole album instead of just a few truly catchy songs.