Cage The Elephant "Melophobia" - Retrospective Review
Updated: Jun 26, 2022
Bowling Green Kentucky's favorite garage rockers came back with their third and best album. Melophobia takes all of the sounds that made Cage the Elephant great and sets the stage for the experimentation and evolution of their sound to come. All ten tracks on this record hit the mark. No filler tunes, no noticeably weaker tunes, and most importantly each song has its own unique sound correcting a fault on their previous record Thank You Happy Birthday in which the high energy sound meshed too many of the songs into one, costing them the attention of their listeners. Melophobia does it right though, plenty of the angsty loudness, plenty of experimentation, plenty groovy guitar breakdowns, and just the right amount of commercial savviness. It's a real tossup between Melophobia and AM by the Arctic Monkey's for best alternative rock album of the year, but I would say this one might just come out on top.
High energy tracks such as Spiderhead and It's Just Forever are pleasantly balanced out by gentler and more laid back tracks such as Hypocrite and Cigarette Daydreams. The best part is that tracks such as Take it or Leave it and Halo can have the dark and the light side of Cage, an alluring effect of the great writing, and song-making of these guys. With some hints seemingly taken from the expert songwriting of the Pixies, Cage does the whole loud to soft thing perfectly and I mean perfectly. A flawless mix-mash of all sorts of sounds and styles come together to make 37 minutes of engaging and captivating music. Tracks like Come a Little Closer start with a driving money beat and a groovin' bassline but break it down into a loud half time singable chorus. Check out that music video too, if you want to have your mind taken on a trip. That being the leadoff single released a couple months before the rest of the record saw some commercial sucess, tossing the upcoming record into the mainstream, and deservingly so.
Matt Shultz gets a bit crazy to the listeners delight going for a bit of a rant on Teeth seemingly expressing the troubles and dissatisfaction that can come with the high levels of sucess as a musician. The ranting lyrics (if you could call them that) are well worth the read, after the powerhouse of a song that Teeth is. Their most popular song to date Cigarette Daydreams closes out the album on the mellow side, a song that can capture a feeling in one's life with sheer honest, and poetic lyrics creating a very somber aura. Delicate guitars and room filling keyboards make this song too good to forget, and still one of the most played tracks on alternative radio and playlists alike garnishing about a half a billion Spotify streams as of 2022. A similar feeling of longing is given to the listener in Halo. Two songs which can mark the broadening horizons on their next record Tell Me I'm Pretty.
Melophobia found itself in the sweet spot of the Cage the Elephant Discography. A bit too mature, and developed for their earlier work, but not too overdeveloped and alienated as their later work (particularly Social Cues, as there is still plenty to respect and like in the experimentation of Tell Me I'm Pretty). Just in tune enough with the early stuff but still leaves listeners wanting more of the experimentation to come. A shockingly good album with not one bad track on it, encapsulated with the raw energy of garage rock, but not afraid to dive down the rabbit hole of psychedelic rock, surf rock, and some punk because why not? With the energy and in your face power of the Ramones, but with a more developed post/punk level of musicianship, 10/10 all around, this is Cage at their absolute best. Save the songs on your playlists, and you'll have to work really hard to wear them out.