Unleashing apparent angst with a fury of cunning lyrics, Cage the Elephant has made an ambitious return. The band's sophomore album, “Thank You Happy Birthday,” delivers a powerful – and fairly confusing – punch.
Hailing from Kentucky, Cage the Elephant emerged in 2008 with the self-titled debut album. The band made a name for itself with gutsy, fast-paced rock tunes, and the album yielded three catchy singles: “In One Ear,” “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Back Against the Wall.” The five members then spent the following two years touring and promoting their music, while recording nearly 80 songs.
Unlike their first album, “Thank You Happy Birthday” lacks a solidified feel, bouncing from ear-splitting screams to pop-based ballads. The effect leaves the listener in a state of bewilderment, but upon further listening, the eclectic mix becomes much more pleasurable. Drawing influences from the iconic 90s Grunge culture, eccentric frontman Matt Schultz throws vocal punches as he fearlessly sing-yells his way through songs.
“Shake Me Down,” a peculiar, upbeat tune with the optimistic lyrics, “Even on a cloudy day, I’ll keep my eyes fixed on the sun” is the album’s first single. The song expresses a hackneyed sentiment with their characteristic musical innovation. “Aberdeen,” “2024,” and “Around My Head” have a similar vibe, with fierce drum beats and daring guitar riffs that beg the listener to sing along. Smart and shrill-sounding, “Indy Kidz” sarcastically mocks the movement they’ve come to represent, as the anguished narrator explains his desperate pursuit for “the shoes and the right haircut” to fit in. “Sell Yourself” and “Sabertooth Tiger,” which appear later on the album, carry the same blaring Nirvana-like sound. In addition, the album is scattered with a few slower ballads. The band's varied style keeps listeners on their toes, encouraging to think twice about established musical standards.
With this first album, Cage the Elephant successfully established itself as bona fide contributors to the music world. “Thank You Happy Birthday” reinforces their legitimacy, but with an added air of confidence. It is fearlessly experimental and often unpredictable. Give their sound a listen, because Cage the Elephant is here to stay.