After forming in mid-2006 and signing to London-Based Relentless Records in 2007, Cage the Elephant uprooted themselves from their native Kentucky to chase their dreams of musical glory in the UK. A year in the studio and a tour around Britain later, Cage returned to the US in 2008 a powerful new sound and an astonishing eponymous debut. A cross between a updated country/edgy blues rock/hard hitting indie punk while incorporating intelligent, politically potent lyrics, Cage delivered tracks like the oft commercial-rotated “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked”, amazingly mastered “Lotus” and their vibrant “FUCK YOU” anthem to the masses “In One Ear”. With talent, detailed musical transitions and compositions way beyond their years, a brash delivery and their wildly energetic live shows, they quickly became them the new favorites on the scene.
On their newest effort Thank you Happy Birthday, we find Cage completely abandoning ship from the style of their previous album, taking the aggressiveness, urgency and blues influence off their delivery, and adapting a more laid back, modernized, Pixies-influenced, avant-garde type sound. Even with the complete change in style; they still maintained the ability to show their maturation as musicians and thrive within a new soundscape. Even while exploring a diverse range of musical styles from the retro-rock influenced (“2024”, “Japanese Buffalo”) to the slower, well-composed track “Shake Me Down”, they still provide the high energy, lyrically compelling, transitionally genius tracks we’ve come to know and love (“Indi Kidz”, “Sell Yourself”). Even their slower tracks, like the lullaby-esqe “Rubber Ball” are so well done, it compels several repeat listens out of you.
I admit, it was a bit hard at first to digest the new musical layout they’ve given us. And I know fans of Cage The Elephant are probably freaking out a little right now. It’s got to be a shock to the system of those who were expecting them to stick to the format of their first record. Regardless, what makes the album fairly great is their ability to step outside the (rock)box and still sound somewhat amazing. It’s definitely the type of album that grows on you. Change is the only constant in this world, and most of the time, change is good. Keep that in mind when you give this album a spin.