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Album Reviews, Music

Album Review: Cage The Elephant – “Social Cues”

By: Kirstin Bews

 

 

 

After months of teasing, Cage the Elephant are releasing their new album, Social Cues, on April 19th via RCA Records. After 12 years of making music, Cage the Elephant remain one of the most promising rock bands of the 21st century. Their underground, nonchalant signature sound holds up in Social Cues to continue their highly regarded reputation in the American alt-rock scene. Following their biggest album hit Tell Me I’m Pretty (2015), Social Cueshas big shoes to fill.  

Not ones to shy away from ambition, the band became inspired by Brian Jones’s unconventional instrument choices on the Rolling Stones’ Under My Thumb. Therefore, Cage the Elephant started to experiment with their instrument choices with guitarist, Nick Bockrath, switching out his guitar for the mellotron in “Broken Boy” and then switching to the pedal steel for “Black Madonna”. In both instances, these switches create a louder, more psychedelic sound.

One aspect in the musical composition of Social Cues that hasn’t changed is frontman, Matt Shultz’s songwriting style. Shultz writes his songs from the perspective of a character to “give a safe space to explore expressions that are difficult to say”. The character from “Ready to Let Go” is reportedly a softly spoken, mild, murderer. Shultz has explained that in his down-time while the making of the album, he had been watching murder documentaries and longform tv series. He found this particular character compelling in writing “Ready to Let Go” as he finds “a lot of these people are very relatable, which is scary in some regards and also humbling”. The music video for “Ready to Let Go” is dark and reminiscent of American Horror Story. While the song does not tell of homicide but rather an indictment to love, the song illustrates the moment that Shultz and his wife, who were visiting Pompeii, realised they needed a divorce.

Shultz uses Social Cues to discuss this difficult and emotionally charged chapter in his life. The last song on the album is a ballad written for his wife at the end of their seven year marriage. “Goodbye” is raw and it’s placement at the end of the tracklist is poignant. Shultz recorded “Goodbye” while lying on the floor, only making it through in one take. The song is melancholic and gentle, as is the frontman’s voice which repeatedly carries the words “it’s alright, goodbye, goodbye”. After recording, Shultz left the studio and cancelled the next two weeks of work. Guitarist, and Matt’s brother, Brad Shutlz recalls “There were times like that, we’d think he was getting back to normal, then he would melt down”. These moments are what make Social Cues the deeply layered, genuine sounding album that it is.

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