Cage the Elephant’s “Tell Me I’m Pretty” Introduces a New, Tranquil Sound
Evan Paul ’18
About three songs into Cage the Elephant’s newest release “Tell Me I’m Pretty,” I had to double check that I was playing the album on Spotify and not the artist’s radio station. That’s how closely lead singer Matthew Shultz’s drawl resembles Alex Turner’s (the lead singer of Arctic Monkeys) signature voice. I don’t like to call copycat (which has already been done by fans of The Black Keys), but the comparison between Shultz and Turner is uncanny.
Even so, “Tell Me I’m Pretty” is a solid fourth album from the band. It is relatively short, coming in at about 38 minutes, but the songs are strong throughout. Just two years before this new release, Cage the Elephant released a very different album called “Melophobia” that, while critically acclaimed, did not chart well compared to their earlier efforts. While “Melophobia” was described as a “‘mish-mash’ of sounds” (Alternative Press), “Tell Me I’m Pretty” is laid-back, almost lazy in comparison. Perhaps this contrast explains my initial disbelief that “Tell Me I’m Pretty” was produced by Cage the Elephant. But this new sound works well for the band. Because of its relaxed feel, the album is much more accessible to listeners both old and new. There is a song for everyone on the album, which couldn’t necessarily be said of “Melophobia.”
“Tell Me I’m Pretty” is the first Cage the Elephant album that I listened to all the way through, and I think it’s perfect for beginners. The band sounds vulnerable on this album, which creates a sort of bond between the listener and the songs. The lyrics are true to life, and each song is better than the last as the album progresses. In what may have been in homage to this newfound vulnerability, the album cover is perhaps the most subdued of Cage the Elephant’s four releases. Gone are the abstract paintings and images and instead we see a girl coming out of the water. While her eyes are other-worldly blue, it’s still a change that could hint at a new direction for the band, and I’m all for it.
“Too Late to Say Goodbye”: This was the third single the band put out, and it was their last chance to advertise their album before its release. I’m almost sure this track did just that. “Too Late to Say Goodbye” is perhaps the best track on the whole album. It has the muffled vocals and heavy guitar riffs that Cage the Elephant is known for, and it’s down-right singable. Even if you don’t know the lyrics, you’ll definitely be humming along to this track once you hear the melody.
“How Are You True”: “Heyyyyyy, how are you true?” Matthew Shultz practically whispers on this slow track. This track is beautiful, both lyrically and sonically. It has just enough percussion in the background to compliment the soft-delivery of half of the lyrics. It is also introspective, proclaiming that “you need love” to go on in life. With his vocal prowess in this song, any listener is sure to believe almost anything Shultz says.
“Sweetie Little Jean”: This is the song that made me think I was listening to the Arctic Monkeys. Even so, I still love it. It’s the sad story of a missing girl, but the sadness is hidden by the song’s funky backing-track and high falsetto chorus. It’s one of those “Pumped Up Kicks”-esque songs that tricks its listener into thinking things are actually much happier than they are. Because of its awesome sound, “Sweetie Little Jean” practically begs to be listened to over and over again which is the only way you’ll really figure out the lyrics and the story they reveal.
“Punchin’ Bag”: I always enjoy a dance track, and while this isn’t necessarily the next club hit, “Punchin’ Bag” is the type of tune you turn on when you’re supposed to be cleaning your room but you end up dancing around instead. The song has plenty of lyrics in its story-like setup that make it perfect for acting out with a friend while you dance together. Not to devalue the song or the band, but it’s a perfect girls’ night song.
Ultimately, you should give this album a listen. Although if you know you don’t like Arctic Monkeys or cringe at the thought of an even grittier Kings of Leon, then don’t waste your time.