GENRES: Rock n' Roll, Indie Rock, Alternative Rock, Lo-Fi,
TOP TRACKS: Spiderhead, Come a Little Closer, Telescope, Take it or Leave it, Black Widow, Teeth, Cigarette Dreams
Melophobia is the third studio album from Alternative Rock band, Cage the Elephant. The band became popular over the past few years thanks to the traction of their first two albums, Cage The Elephant and Thank You Happy Birthday. Cage the Elephant is a good rock band. Their musical influences include and are certainly not limited to classic rock, punk rock, grunge, early alternative rock and many others. Because of this, their music has a nice combination of styles and almost each and every Cage the Elephant song sounds different than the previous one. Sometimes, originality has been a problem for the band as they tried to forge their own sound while still incorporating elements of music from their heroes. There were some times where Cage the Elephant really had trouble getting their own sound across on a record. This was the case with their debut record and a little less so for their second LP. However, through all of this I still really liked Cage the Elephant and their music. They are one of the most promising new rock bands with somewhat mainstream attention.
With Melophobia, my respect for Cage the Elephant grew even more. On this album, you find a quirkier type of sound that sounds very original, really well-written songs with great hooks and melodies, and a certain cohesiveness and direction that it seemed the previous to Cage the Elephant records seemed to lack just a bit. One thing is for sure and that this album doesn't come to you immediately. It takes time to understand and time to appreciate. I think this specifically can be attributed to the gritty, harsh and sometimes unwelcoming tones on the record like the chorus on the opening track, "Spiderhead" which is propelled by lead singer Matt Schultz and his screaming over the crunchy, lo-fi Cage the Elephant sound that finally sounds somewhat completed.
In addition to "Spiderhead", there are songs like "Black Widow" and "Teeth" that also give off the lo-fi indie, garage song that most rock and roll fans love. "Black Widow" even has heavy horn sounds in some parts to make the overall sound even more boisterous and attacking. The way every instrument is recorded on this track and really the whole album in general creates a very cool and distant vibe but at the same time, Cage the Elephant comes off as pretty playful as well. By this I mean they don't really take themselves TOO seriously. Like during the ending of "Teeth" where Matt Schultz essentially just speaks over random instrumental parts that don't sound organized, intentional or deliberate but that they just sound like they were placed there just for the hell of it. That adds to the punk-rock attitude aspect which I'm sure the band was trying to go for in some way.
To me, those type of songs are fine and all, but there are some very clear standouts on Melophobia that stand out to me because they are so well-written. They aren't the heaviest rock songs, and some of them are actually a bit more delicate in arrangement. For example, "Come a Little Closer" (which was my first exposure to this record due to its radio play) has a lot of detail and the chorus is a GREAT melodic payoff. The bass really carries the song in the verses under the noodling guitars, which really helps add to the momentum overall.
Even more surprising to me was the track "Telescope" which I didn't really enjoy too much upon first listen but I know feel it's the strongest track on the album. This ballad has some really thoughtful lyrics, touches on some nice concepts and of course the melody is incredible. Matt Schultz's vocals sound very solemn and woeful at the beginning of the track. Overall, it gives off a nice feeling and the metaphorical analogy that the telescope is used for is quite interesting.
Finally, my last favorite would have to be "Take It or Leave It" because of the groove that the band just rocks on the verses added with some hooks on the chorus that would even make Paul McCartney proud. Overall, these various examples from Melophobia prove to me that Cage the Elephant has progressed a long way since their debut and it seems like the band has figured out the sound that they want for themselves rather than what the media wants them to sound like. It's nice to hear this Cage the Elephant sound because while it is not really much different from the original two records, the band seems to have corrected some of the issues they had with originality and they have come back with even stronger songwriting and hooks. Overall, this is what rock music is about. It's about originality, songwriting and passion. This is what I feel from Melophobia and while some classic rock fans might argue that Cage the Elephant are not rock and instead alternative I would ask them what about this band isn't rock because to me, just about everything they are doing resembles the qualities of a good rock band. Besides, they just released one of the best rock albums of the year so I don't think there is any doubting their authenticity anymore.