The Artist Spotlight: Cage the Elephant

Elizabeth Kaiser graphic

Elizabeth Kaiser graphic

Have you ever listened to one or two songs by an artist and then never visited anything else of theirs until years later, only to realize you really like their music? That’s Cage the Elephant for me.
Cage the Elephant formed in 2006, though they did not release an album until 2008, with “Cage the Elephant.” At its core, the album was alt rock, however it had heavy punk rock influences, especially with the intro song, “In One Ear,” a middle finger to critics. Most famously, the album featured “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” arguably the song they are most known for.
Their next album, “Thank You Happy Birthday,” came in 2011, also with heavy punk rock influences. It wasn’t until 2013, with their third album, “Melophobia,” that they began establishing their own sound.
With it, they began leaning more into the alt rock/alternative genres. The song, “Come a Little Closer” became a massive hit, topping multiple charts and seeing widespread radio play.
Their 2015 album, “Tell Me I’m Pretty,” leaned even more into the alternative side “Melophobia” explored. Two songs from the album, “Too Late to Say Goodbye” and “Trouble,” saw radio play, and ended up being my real introduction to the band.
The following years were quiet for the band. 2017 saw the release of “Unpeeled,” an album of acoustic and live songs, but there would be no word on the next album until late 2018; even that was simply a message that the fifth album was ready for release.
2019’s “Social Cues” was quite different from anything else the band had released. The alt rock aspects had been dropped almost altogether. The album felt very experimental and raw, exploring a lot of what Matt Schultz, the lead singer, had been feeling during his divorce.
The band is currently working on demos, but no word on new music beyond that.
Before I go into my top five songs I’d like to give a shout out to “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Come a Little Closer.” Those two songs were a big part of my early introduction to the band, and I wouldn’t have listened any further if it weren’t for them.
“In One Ear.” Personally, I’m not the biggest punk rock fan. However, this song really gets me in the mood to tear down the system. The people talking in the intro give it a very garage-band live-show feel. The entire song is Matt going, “I just wanna play music” and I love it.
“Night Running” is another really fun song that I bop to all the time. It’s got this slightly darker, neon cyberpunk tone without dragging the tempo down too much. Beck adds his uniqueness without overpowering the piece, and the sax in the background is the perfect touch.
“Too Late to Say Goodbye” is wonderful, and I have not stopped listening to it since I first heard it back in 2015. It’s somber and has this amazing analogy of watching a relationship burn to the ground without being able to do anything to stop it, yet wanting so badly to fix things.
You know those raw emotions I mentioned that “Social Cues” touched on? Well, “Goodbye” has to be the pinnacle of them, and I don’t think Matt could have picked a better finisher for the album. It’s such a heavy piece, starting with a beautiful piano line, slowly joined by other instruments all coming together just before the final chorus.
And finally, “Sweetie Little Jean.” This might be one of the most upbeat songs about a murder case I have ever heard. Matt spoke on how he spun it to be about losing someone to depression, while also watching one of his friends disappear only for her body to be found days later. It’s really sad, but gets me super pumped at the same time. My favorite part has got to be the bridge, which builds in intensity before swooping into the final chorus, and a surprisingly quiet close.
That’s all for this week. As always, send feedback and criticism to [email protected] I’ll see you all in the next edition.