WORDS: Henry Wilkinson
In 2008, after relocating to London, Kentucky band Cage The Elephant released their self-titled debut album, an album that absorbed all the surrounding Indie scene influences and culminated with them touring in support of the Pigeon Detectives and subsequently hitting the mainstream consciousness with the single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”. Three years on and the much anticipated release of their second album Thank you, Happy Birthday is upon us, an album which sees them turn their back on UK influences and embark upon a sharper, more American punk-rock sound…
The opener “Always Something” sets a pace which the album rarely veers from; a pulsing punk drum-beat is decorated with distorted guitar feedback that crackles over a thumping bass line. Singer Matthew Schultz pitches in, breathlessly squalling out lyrics about alienation and paranoia. This formula is repeated for most of the album, the result being an exhaustingly predictable listen.
At times they exhilarate, as the band’s energy and enthusiasm rubs off, especially on tracks “Aberdeen”- which sounds like it belongs on a Pixies’ record with it’s brilliantly cathartic chorus- and “2024”, an anthem for angst filled teenage romance. Unfortunately these are the high points of an otherwise average album.
The influences of Pixies and Modest Mouse are clear, especially in Schultz’s vocal-style which mirrors the idiosyncrasies of both Frank Black and Isaac Brock a little too closely at times. This ‘mirroring’ begins to grate somewhat, especially on the single “Shake Me Down” and almost as a by-product of this ‘homage’ process the album’s style sounds forced, as if the deviation from the sound of their debut album was a conscious effort rather than a natural progression. This is especially true in “Indy Kidz”, an attempted satire on the pretension and perceived trendiness of the indie music scene which backfires, sounding instead like an adolescent attempt at individuality and rebellion. It brings to mind Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair”, a critique of the music industry and the importance it places on image and style ahead of substance, not least for the line “get the right haircut”. However, where Pavement succeeded, Cage The Elephant fail, and unfortunately Thank you, Happy Birthday doesn’t show enough originality or maturity to give it any chance of longevity.
BEST TRACKS: Aberdeen, 2024
SOUNDS LIKE: Pixies, Modest Mouse, OK Go