Music

Cage the Elephant: Melophobia

Except for a few cool production techniques and some interesting mid-song changes, it's just a collection of shallow, uninvolving tracks with plenty of distortion and eccentric singing.


Cage the Elephant

Melophobia

Label: RCA
US Release Date: 2013-10-08
UK Release Date: 2013-10-07
Amazon
iTunes

Kentucky fried rock band Cage the Elephant quickly became a household name a few years ago with their single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” A mish-mash of blues, hip-hop, and alternative rock, the track was a cool slice of pulp fiction decorated with a catchy-as-hell chorus. Unfortunately, nothing on their third outing, Melophobia (which means “fear of music”), comes close to matching their previous glory. In fact, except for a few cool production techniques and some interesting mid-song changes, the record is just a collection of shallow, uninvolving tracks with plenty of distortion and eccentric singing.

In regards to titling the record Melophobia, the band didn’t mean it literally; instead, as frontman Matt Schultz told MTV earlier this month, “It's a fear of creating music to project premeditated images of self, like catering to cool, or making music to project an image of being intellectual or artistic or poetic, rather than just trying to be an honest communicator." This perspective is a bit ironic, however, when one considers that Schultz conveys a very specific and manufactured persona. In any case, Melophobia is more distinctive and unique than most of its equally popular peers, but that doesn’t make it especially intriguing or memorable.

The album starts with “Spiderhead,” a fun punk/pop clash reminiscent of newer Portugal. The Man or the sole album by the Good, the Bad & the Queen (or really, anything Damon Albarn has done). The former connection is especially true with the eclectic shift that occurs near the end of the track. It’s inventive, for sure. Like the rest of the record, though, it’s a bit too crunchy for its own good, which prevents the colorful timbres from standing out.

“Come a Little Closer” is easier on the ears, with a more inviting chorus and pleasant vibe, while “Telescope” allows Schultz to recite poetry in-between singing. It’s a very uplifting track. “It’s Just Forever” and “Black Widow”, on the other hand, charge onward with piercing obnoxiousness. In fact, Schultz seems to channel Danielson in his vocal shrillness. At least the latter feels like a respectful ode to ‘70s glam rock, so there’s some saving grace.

Later on, “Hypocrite” has the rebellious quality of earlier Red Hot Chili Pepper songs, and it makes unique use of horns. “Teeth”, by contrast, feels like the musical equivalent of a kid who just ate dozens of sugar packets: it’s spastic without purpose. The dreamily titled “Cigarette Daydreams” closes Melophobia with a ballad featuring restrained yet lovely acoustic guitar work and plenty of optimism. It’s probably the best track on here, as well as a superb way to close.

As you can tell, Melophobia is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it feels fresh and bold, with a clear vision, fun timbres, somewhat resourceful production, and a care-free attitude. At the same time, though, the songwriting is very amateurish, and there’s too much of a muddled, DIY coating around the entire affair. Few of these tracks here have any lasting appeal, and even those are just barely making the cut. Essentially, Cage the Elephant is definitely onto something with its sound, but other bands, such as the aforementioned ones, are doing much more with it.

5

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image