There’s something faintly comforting in Cage The Elephant’s sound, especially if you pine for the days that you could hear Beck, Radiohead, and The Beastie Boys in a 10-minute span on a rock station.
While most of today’s rock radio is filled with dunger-hunger bands who owe more to the Pearl Jam, Cage The Elephant have always been closer to Blur’s backwood cousins.
It’s probably not a coincidence the band had a bigger following across the pond before their debut landed in stores in the U.S. two years ago, where it found modest success with the hit “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked.”
Cage The Elephant’s debut mixed punk, blues, garage rock and some Brit-Pop for good measure, and for the most part things haven’t changed too drastically on their follow-up, “Thank You, Happy Birthday.”
There are no obvious stand-outs, but there a few clunkers on here. “Shake Me Down” may not initially seem like most obvious choice a single, but quickly becomes one of the most likable offerings on the album.
The bitter spittle of the somewhat conceptual “Indy Kidz” almost throws the record off as the band singles out naysayers for not being authentic enough to be cool. This may have been a good throwaway bonus track, but sadly sticks out like a sore thumb in the context of the rest of the album.
While “Thank You, Happy Birthday” certainly has some good songs but knowing their influences can be a bit of a problem. In fact, it was hard not to want to go back and revisit the bands Cage The Elephant takes their cues from after listening to a few tracks.
I’m positive “Aberdeen” is a fast version of “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies, with different lyrics to match the speedier tempo. In fact, vocalist Mathew Shultz sounds incredibly like Frank Black on the track.
The record has prettier moments like on “Rubber Ball” which sounds like a lullaby that shows off Shultz’s range as a vocalist. The track is a perfect example of how, when things work for the group, they work well.
Rounding out the record is “Right Before Your Eyes,” a nice little ballad that actually isn’t slow.
I wouldn’t call “Thank You, Happy Birthday” a sophomore slump, but the album is experienced best in its entirety, rather than song by song.