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REVIEW | Cage the Elephant – “Tell Me I’m Pretty”

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by Maddy Siiter

The term “timeless” might seem like a lost adjective in an age of easily disposable Top 40 music and lists upon lists of new sub-genres popping up all the time, but alternative rock band, Cage the Elephant helps us remember with their newest record release, Tell Me I’m Pretty.

In hindsight, maybe the only risk this Kentucky-based band took was not taking the monumental risk I might expect from a group on their 4th record. Instead, they seem to sit back and fine-tune the indie-rock sound they already have. The 10-track album, produced by The Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, is so clean but still so true to “indie” form that we don’t need or want anything different, just more of it.

“Cry Baby” opens the record with a groovy guitar riff and bouncing percussion. Frontman Matt Shultz’ laidback vocal style carries fluently through the danceable-but-chill melody, even with the dynamic change as the song comes to an end.

“Mess Around” and “How Are You True” are two tracks that really stand out to me, both showcasing different strengths of the band. While “Mess Around” is a little less lyrically focused, it’s complete with echoing “oh no’s” and fuzzed out guitar over a simple melody that’s easy to get stuck in your head, proving maybe it’s not always about lyrics.

With the soft acoustic guitar in the intro of “How Are You True,” it’s the most relaxed song on the record, a nice little breath of fresh air. Schultz sings, “Still all these words I’ve spoken don’t mean anything at all without love, without love, without love.”

Though it sounds good in its simplicity, the lyrical content is just as raw. “Sweetie Little Jean” tells the tale of a missing girl, with the helpless but hopeful lyrics, “Has melancholy taken you for good, you know that I would save you if I could.” “Punchin’ Bag” touches on domestic violence, “She won’t put up with another brood who only wants to bruise her.”  They’re all very solid songs and stand strong on their own, a combination that pushes Tell Me I’m Pretty from good to something lasting.

There’s no gimmick here, that’s the thing. No one is trying to hide behind a larger than life persona or make anything seem like something it’s not. I think it’s just five guys writing and making honest music. And maybe that’s all it takes to create a solid record and make it last.

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