Updated: Jun 26, 2022
Formed in 2006 in Kentucky, Cage the Elephant came running out of the gate as one of the loudest and most aggressive bands in the mid 2000's alternative rock scene. They have released five studio albums to date, each of which to commercial sucess. Below is a compiled list of all five albums ranked from best to worst describing strengths, weaknesses and everything in between.
5 - Social Cues
Cage the Elephant released four great albums, and then they released this one... Apart from the three song string that starts the album, there is just not too much of interest going on here. The Cage the Elephant sound is almost completely gone and has been replaced by over-mixed and over-simplified songs. The garage rock sound is gone, along with a lot of the angst, and power which fans dearly missed. They seemed to continue on with the experimental trends of Tell Me I'm Pretty but what they came up with this time was far from gems that were produced on the prior record. This record certainly has its moments such as the groovy Ready to Let Go, or the powerhouse of a track Broken Boy. Broken Boy, has the power of the early days, with the later era bits of experimentation producing a fast paced, gritty opening track with some catchy guitars. The following year, they released a fantastic version Broken Boy featuring Detroit rock legend Iggy Pop. Black Madonna shows off Shultz's finest vocal work on the album with a high pitched chorus, and more monotone verse showing off his gift for vocal range, an attribute I know many singers wish they had. Although it has its highlights, this record does not hold its own to its predecessors, and was a bit of a let down for listeners. Innovation, and experimentation are good, it just did not work out too well this time.
Favorite Track - Broken Boy
4 - Thank You, Happy Birthday
The second album released by Cage the Elephant. This album has a sound much similar to their self-titled debut album than Melophobia, which was released two years later. The guys brought back the raw, garage rock sound which made their first album so strong. There is plenty of in your face excitement on this record, emphasized in songs such as Indy Kidz, and Aberdeen. Shultz is belting out the lyrics in Aberdeen mixed with loud but catchy guitars by Lincoln Parish and the other Shultz brother Brad. That along with a softer verse, but a loud, wall of sound like chorus are often part of the formula for good music which the guys nailed on that track. Always Something, is a funky song featuring a semi-spoken word break in the middle by Shultz reminiscent of 90's alternative band Cake. The singles released of this album (Shake Me Down, Aberdeen, Around My Head, and Always Something) seemed to be the stronger tracks, unlike other Cage the Elephant albums, where the most interesting music you can find is on the b-sides. With that being said though, there still is plenty of solid songs worth adding to your indie playlists, such as the fast paced 2024, and the bass-powered and distortion-laced Sabertooth Tiger. An all around head-banging album with some songs that are a must to see live.
Favorite Track - Aberdeen
3 - Tell Me I'm Pretty
The 2015 release, Tell Me I'm Pretty takes a bit of a turn musically from the first three albums and really branches out musically. Although a very diverse album musically, with songs of many different sounds on it, a lot of the angst and power of the early days is not quite at the forefront anymore. In the seven years, since their debut album, their sound has evolved to a more refined and polished sound lacking some of the power and raw energy of the early days. The garage rock sound is brought to the front on tracks such as Mess Around featuring drums to the sound of Pat Carney of the Black Keys. Mess Around received a lot of well-deserved airplay, and has a music video that is a trip to watch, and I'll leave at that... Again, a very musically diverse album as can be heard in tracks such as Too Late To Say Goodbye which has a spacey sort of sound, not really available anywhere else in the Cage the Elephant discography, and to their credit, they nailed it. In that song, they experiment with slide guitar, layered vocals and orchestral cymbal rolls on the drums, all sounds not too familiar for them. Cold Cold Cold, utilizes a piano for the melody, as opposed to a guitar, and begins the song with some interesting drum licks. It is hard to attach a certain sound to this record, which again to their credit, is part of what makes it an interesting album, strong enough to win them a Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2015. An album which certainly caught listeners and fans off guard when it was released, but Tell Me I'm Pretty has aged very well and shows off a new, musically diverse sound more than just garage rock.
Favorite Track - Punchin' Bag
2 - Cage The Elephant
The first, of a string of strong albums, Cage the Elephant comes crashing into the world of alternative rock with their blend of garage rock, blues, and punk. Like a cousin to the Black Keys, Cage the Elephant really embraces the loudness, and driving power of garage rock. Tracks like Free Love make you want to press the gas pedal until you've run out of road. A nice guitar driven album, which also brings Matt Shultz into the spotlight as one of the leading front-men in the new world of rock. Funky tracks like Ain't No Rest for the Wicked, change up the pace a little bit and give you some really clever and interesting lyrics to follow along with along with some groovy guitar licks. Most likely the first Cage song many listeners had ever heard, the song remains a staple on modern rock playlists. In One Ear, is a straightforward , aggressive rock song that is hard to not head-bang to. A seriously wild song to see played live. B-Side tracks on the album, such as Back Stabbin Betty, and Lotus bust out the cowbell and show off more of that aggressive rock sound which these guys were really know for in their early days. One of the best rock albums of 2008, and a serious impact in the world of rock.
Favorite Track - James Brown
1 - Melophobia
Their third and finest album. Melophobia is a mashup of all of the sounds which make Cage the Elephant and is nearly impossible to attach a genre, or even a description to. Released in late 2013 around the time of similarly successful albums such as AM by the Arctic Monkeys, this album punches its way into the rock realm with explosive songs like Spiderhead, and It's Just Forever. Featuring vocals from Alison Mosshart, It's Just Forever has a bassline that will get you out of your seat, along with the angsty vocals of Matt Shultz that you would expect. The last of the Cage the Elephant albums to feature lead guitarist Lincoln Parish, this album is noticeably more guitar heavy than their next two, where the band takes on more of a mellow sound focused on the vocals. Melophobia shows off just how talented these guys really are with songs like Take It Or Leave It, and Come a Little Closer. Many tracks from this record are among their most popular songs such as Cigarette Daydreams which nods towards the sound of their later work. A staple of modern alternative rock, this album has all of the angst of the early Cage the Elephant days, with the chemistry that only got better over time allowing these guys to release an album with not one single bad song on it. How do you make an album of both a garage rock sound, yet precisely mixed, and refined. Cage the Elephant figured it out.
Favorite Track - Take It Or Leave It