Some people can make the claim that rock and roll is dead. That it’s time has come and gone, probably at the fault of the 1980’s, (thanks hair metal). But when we finally get to see a band take the sound that blew up the indie radio stations, evolve into something, that at first, made me frightened to like it as much as I did, you can breathe easily knowing that rock and roll is in fact alive and kicking. Cage The Elephant’s Thank You, Happy Birthday is a great step forward for an already kick-ass band.
Cage The Elephant’s self titled debut album surfaced in 2008 and it exploded onto the indie-rock scene. It knocked out three singles, all getting radio play, at least here on our southern Ontario station 102.1 The Edge. “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” was even the theme to Borderlands, a very appreciated post-apocalyptic video game. Their first albums tone was picked from a wide range of influences, even quoting to be inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s career with an interview by Alan Cross in Nashville (a host on a segment on 102.1 The Edge). Hailing from small town Bowling Green, Kentucky, jumping head first to the sketchy end of London, England to get inspired by the legends that did it before them, develop a European crowd, fine tune their sound and then continue to rip it in the States to tour and play their music. If that’s not rock and roll, I’m not sure what is.
Thank You, Happy Birthday is the best example of a sophomore album that comes to mind. It’s scary when a band you love changes their sound to one that break conventions, but its worth it in the end to find out that that change is the driving force in the band. Take a look at a band like Oasis, – one of my favourites – you can go from Definitely Maybe all the way to Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants and for the most part the sound is the same old Oasis that we know and love. Heathen Chemistry is a pretty big jump, but it’s not until their final album Dig Our Your Soul that they start to change their sound and break their barriers, and I would say it was a little to late. Cage The Elephant took this knowledge and applied it as fast as possible and produced a much noisier and almost thrash’ier record. Noisy is the word to describe their new record, even in a few pieces like shouting “way back” at the end of the chorus for “Aberdeen“, you can start to see the transition in Mat Shultz’s vocals. Once you get to “Indie Kidz” Shultz just starts screaming like he’s actually in the midst of chasing off a herd of Indie Kids that have positioned themselves in his parking spot, only to succeed and to begin chanting “yeah, yeah”. Or maybe he was just really high, it’s beyond me. The riffs in “Sell Yourself” just yell thrash punk, while a robot voice also starts chanting “Sell Yourself” close to the end. They just add all of these little touches to this record to make it the coolest sounding album.
I was listening to the thing play though my headphones a few times and I got a little scared. I kinda felt like I was listening to something from an Gothic punk-rock cult. I was thinking like, am I aloud to like this? I won’t want to drink the Kool-Aid after I listen to this record nine times will I? But alas, I showed it to a few of my friends and they loved it as well. So either we are all getting together on Sunday for an morning ritual and banana pancakes, – to which you are, as well invited – or this record is really just that good.
A little static here, and little distortion there, maybe throw in some random shouting and a few singles and you have yourself a solid recipe for a great new rock ‘n’ roll record. Of course its got your hits, “Shake Me Down”, and “Aberdeen”, “Right Before Your Eyes”, and the acoustic track present on every album “Rubber Ball” that all stick to conventions, but it’s the tracks that blow up the archetypes and leave them a smoldering mound of Buffalo dung that really adds a whole new layer of style to their ever growing pile. Cage The Elephants Thank You, Happy Birthday is not to be missed.