Cage The Elephant Shifts into High Gear with Fast Moving ‘Social Cues’

By DONNA BALANCIA

Cage The Elephant has an uncanny knack for travelling new sonic terrain while keeping its signature sound. The new album Social Cues out today shows the group’s range and diversity, but also hones in on what makes Cage The Elephant appealing to the masses: Great rock music.

Listening to Social Cues is like watching two high speed trains hurtling down the tracks towards each other, passing with a flash of squealing bright sparks before speeding on and out of your life.

And that’s apparently what happened to frontman Matt Schultz on a few levels this year as he sings about divorce and the deaths of two close friends. Even if we didn’t know there was trauma, his emotional begging and summoning would likely not belie the troubles.

The Bowling Green, Kentucky-born band is comprised Matt Shultz on vocals, Brad Shultz on guitar, Daniel Tichenor on bass, Jared Champion on drums, Nick Bockrath on guitar and Matthan Minster on guitar and keyboards.

Cage The Elephant at Tom Petty MusiCares event in 2017 - Photo by Donna Balancia
Cage The Elephant at Tom Petty MusiCares event in 2017 – Photo by Donna Balancia

But trouble is nothing new to these great musicians, who like many out in the local LA haunts, have been working hard to earn their well-deserved renown. At the MusiCares Tribute to Tom Petty two years ago, guitarist Brad Shultz told CaliforniaRocker.com that the band has endured their share of ups and downs along the long path to “overnight” stardom.

“There were times we played places that were completely empty,” Brad said. “Some nights we played to only the bartender. But that’s what you have to do.”

Apparently those days are long gone, as Cage The Elephant heads out on tour with Beck this summer (Irvine FivePoint Amphitheatre on July 17)

Social Cues opens with a Japanese-style Oh Sees-style song “Broken Boy,” not dissimilar from “Teeth” off the 2013 album Melophobia. it’s fast and fun and kicks off the album in grand style.

The second offering on the record, title track “Social Cues,” has a fast beat with a Depeche Mode-David Bowie style, resplendent with Matt Schultz’ compelling and scratchy middle-range voice. 

“Night Running” by CTE and Beck is almost like a bonus in the middle of a treasure collection. It’s got an Interpol feel to the music with a halting reggae style. 

 

 

“One morning, I receive a text message that says, ‘Here’s a couple of verses that Beck put down,’ ” guitarist Schultz told Beats 1. “And I said, ‘Huh?’ He was like, ‘I have five other options in case these don’t work for you.’ And we’re like, ‘No, this is good!’”

“Ready to Let Go” is one of the favorites on the album and the band released the video a couple of months back. The funky video enlists all the dramatics of ancient Greece and is a terrific piece of filmmaking. 

“Love’s The Only Way” opens with a violin solo that leads the listener to believe this is one of the songs described in the press material about the divorce and loss of friends Matt Shultz endured.

Cate The Elephant – Ready To Let Go:

“What I’m Becoming” is a hopeless plea that is frustrating in that it’s another case of heading down a path and not having the ability to change directions. The keyboard-synth sound is a page taken from the book by Pond, who have practically created their genre of dreamy synth-psych rock. 

Another Japanese-sounding song, only one that moves in a dramatic direction, “Tokyo Smoke” captures the imagination of a high-speed chase through the Asian capital.

Probably easy enough to figure out, “Goodbye” is supposedly about Matt Shultz’ divorce. But rather than getting a soap opera, the song seems to recall the very end of the relationship. The part after every solution has been tried and has failed. Not unlike a speeding train, heading out of town.

California Rocker rating: Four out of five  🎸🎸🎸🎸 Guitar Emoji (Symbola Version)