Cage the Elephant’s third LP “Melophobia” takes us on a journey into the mind of the band’s lead singer, Matthew Shultz. Known mainly for their chaotic combinations of punk, blues and garage rock, their latest album displays many different sides to the band, highlighted by experimental combinations of various elements and genres of music.
“Telescope” sees Shultz losing the role of lyricist and stepping into the role of storyteller. The mellow guitar melodies and melancholy vocals paint a picture of a former self, and of regret at letting time slip by. He warns, “Time is like a leaf in the wind / It’s either time well spent or time well wasted / Don’t waste it.” Once the break hits, Shultz’s lyrics break down as well, chanting, “I’m alone / I’m alone / Can’t you see?” Unlike past songs most fans are accustomed to, Shultz brings down his personal barriers and places himself fully into the song; his lyrics connect with the rhythm.
“It’s Just Forever,” featuring Alison Mosshart of “The Kills,” is a departure from Cage the Elephant’s previous sound. The song finds the pair singing over hypnotizing guitar and piano melodies and hard-backing drums. The track begins innocently enough, but is filled with darker lyrics, as Shultz croons, “I’ll love you til’ we decompose and the skin falls off our bones.” Once Mosshart’s verse comes around, the song becomes increasingly twisted as she instantly takes control and sings, “Give me your heart like a hole in the head” over gritty, grunge guitar riffs. Though more cringe-worthy, the song is a definitely a highlight of the album.
The standout track of the album is its single, “Come A Little Closer.” Here, the band completely flips the script of what is expected of a song from Cage the Elephant. Instead of just another loud track, the band takes a minimalistic and slower approach. Shultz’s distorted vocals do exactly what the title suggests, pulling the listener in deeper as the song gradually picks up. Once the chorus hits, the track crescendos and Shultz passionately sings, “Come a little closer then you’ll see / Things aren’t always what they seem to be.” Over moving guitar strums and pounding kickdrums, he reflects on hard times and the pain of being misunderstood. As the song breaks down, he chants, “Time flies by / They all sing along,” inspiring listeners to chant alongside Shultz.
“Cigarette Daydreams,” the album’s ending track, reflects the band’s much lighter side and bright future ahead of them. At the end of an album filled with many opposing genres and styles, Cage the Elephant once again mixes things up and chooses to end with an acoustic track. Powered by carefree guitar melodies, Shultz’s lyricism comes into full bloom, as he sings hopefully, “We can find a reason / A reason to change / Looking for the answers.” Embracing the regrets of lost time mentioned in “Telescope,” the track shows that the band still has more to give, both sonically and lyrically.
“Melophobia” is a step in the right direction for Cage the Elephant, and a necessary improvement from 2011’s “Thank You Happy Birthday.” Both the band and Matthew Shultz moved out of their comfort zones, implementing different genres of music and re-framing their sound and lyrical content. While a couple of the songs on the album were hit-or-miss, due in part to vague lyrics or unrefined sounds, “Melophobia” shows that while the band still has a ways to go, they are headed on the right path. It is definitely an album worth listening to.
Rating: 3.5 stars