Cage the Elephant - Thank You, Happy Birthday

Album cover
Alternative Rock
Jive Records
Cage the Elephant
Thank You, Happy Birthday
Cage the Elephant - Thank You, Happy Birthday Review rating:
3.5
User rating:
Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

Though still much in their teenage years when it comes to band age, it would be somewhat difficult to have avoided Cage the Elephant since their inception. There was the self-titled debut that catapulted them into their acquired semi-stardom that includes the late night talk show circuit, alternative radio play and inclusion on the popular video game Borderlands. But, some would say the five guys in Cage the Elephant haven't yet truly hit their potential. Thank You, Happy Birthday might not be rock perfection, but it includes enough rowdiness, prowess and energy to get close enough to giving this young band a huge step up into the pantheon of respectable rock musicians. Effortlessly channeling grungy fuzz with the backing of a hammering rhythm section, Cage the Elephant prove they aren’t quite done with causing a ruckus on the rock scene on their second go around.

Balancing a songwriting sensibility reminiscent of ‘60s rock (perhaps minus the drug induced tripping) and an often gritty tonal attack, Cage the Elephant doesn’t quite keep to one set plan through their journey towards rock epiphany. “Always Something” relies on a funky setup beckoning more of a dance track than a rock album, as its off-kilter drums bounce off of the quaky vocals of Matt Shultz. His voice isn’t a belter when it comes to holding out notes or spouting out memorable melodies, but his approach is interesting in that he channels a little bit of Cake amongst the flowing poetry he spits. But just like that, the next track “Aberdeen” switches the focus in a slightly different direction, as twangy, uplifting guitars smooth the road for garage band like drums and the casual vocals of Shultz. Single “Shake Me Down” anchors itself with a folksy guitar line until the gritty rhythm section punches through the simple melodies and rustic vocals in the chorus. Your ears won’t be stretched across too many genres, but Cage the Elephant do enough to combine the funky and catchy to keep us more than tuned into anything slightly unorthodox they might be doing.

The biggest success on Thank You, Happy Birthday though lies within this bands ability to keep the energy up without sacrificing any of the quirks in their musicianship. Whether they are relentlessly punching along the surfy back beats of “Indy Kidz” or the twang-laden backbone of “Sell Yourself”, you’ll have a hard time denying your body the chance to get in some toe taps or dancing during the playing of this record. Now, this record is by no means a ‘dance record’, but you can certainly hear at least a portion of this band’s sound based in the art of addictive rhythms.

Thank You, Happy Birthday does have its setbacks though, as it is certainly not a testament to perfection. Schultz’s voice is one of acquired taste, falling somewhere in the middle of several different delivery options to create something at least slightly unique. In many cases, it fits the feel of the arrangements to have someone who sounds slightly off their rocker manning the microphone, but other times you can’t help but wonder what these tracks would result in if there were some cleaner vocal melodies thrown in. The drumming throughout these tracks does leave a bit to be desired as well, as most of it is very straightforward and clean cut even for a alternative or indie rock record. It doesn’t really make things worse off unless you’re really looking for something spectacular on the drum front, but it does leave you a bit underwhelmed in the process.

For having kind of slept on this band the previous time around, it is refreshing to hear something just a little different than what usually plugs up the radio charts these days. Cage the Elephant seem to really have all their ducks in a row right now, and you can bet this is just another step in the right direction for them.

1. Always Something
2. Aberdeen
3. Indy Kidz
4. Shake Me Down
5. 2024
6. Sell Yourself
7. Rubber Ball
8. Right Before My Eyes
9. Around My Head
10. Sabertooth Tiger
11. Japanese Buffalo
12. Flow
... read more

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