Eclectic rock band Cage the Elephant shows musical growth—without losing its signature edge—on its third album, Melophobia.
Coming in at 10 songs, Melophobia is a fun, new sound that Cage pulls off wonderfully. The band is taking its music in a fairly different direction without making an uncomfortable transition for previous fans, and the result is sensational.
The first three songs are possibly the best on the album, and give a good impression of what Cage is trying to do.
Melophobia opens with one of its most fun songs, “Spiderhead,” a bouncing tune filled with Black Keys-like instrumentals and crooning, high frequency vocals in one of the best choruses on the album, immediately showing off vocalist Matthew Shultz’s range, which he plays with throughout the album.
Following “Spiderhead” is the first single, “Come a Little Closer.” It includes groovy verses similar to Radiohead and probably the catchiest chorus on the album.
“Come a Little Closer” makes a great single that accurately shows the transition Cage is moving toward: a less eclectic, but still highly interesting sound.
The third song, “Telescope,” is the last, and possibly the best, of the opening triple threat. The melodic vocals over low strings and simple instrumentals make this track one to sing along to and get lost in. It’s one of the more personal and clean songs on Melophobia.
Schultz told Rolling Stone that “Telescope” is about coming to terms with the pointlessness of what he was doing alone in his house after taking a break from touring for the first time in five years. He sums this up in the chorus, singing, “time is like a leaf in the wind. Either it’s time worth spent or time I’ve wasted. Don’t waste it.”
Most of the album follows a similar line musically, using subtle, yet enthralling verses and big catchy choruses, keeping your attention the whole way through.
But “It’s Just Forever” featuring Allison Mosshart of The Kills and The Dead Weather, whose swelling voice over Shultz’s stands out on this bluesy track, doesn’t meet the expectations of the rest of this album. Even with her big and bold part in this song, it isn’t one of the better tracks. The chorus is repetitive and feels forced, but the blues riffs in the verses can pull listeners through to the next song.
Melophobia picks back up with two solid songs in a row. “Take it or Leave it” includes beachy guitar licks akin to Naïve Thieves and Ski Lodge, while “Halo” uses rolling drums and shows off Shultz’s range once again.
Although Shultz’s use of his vocal range is a very pleasing aspect of this album, his falsetto on “Black Widows” isn’t quite as charming. But, the addition of brass instruments to “Black Widows,” “Hypocrite,” and the end of “Teeth” is a welcome change.
Fans of Cage’s second album, Thank You, Happy Birthday, will be pleased to hear the band return to that wild punk sound in “Teeth.”
While the writing isn’t terribly creative, it’s brimming with nostalgia and should make for a fun song to hear live. But what seems to be a straightforward, wild Cage song soon changes to a schizophrenic-sounding rant over strange, rhythmic instrumentals.
“Cigarette Daydreams” ends Cage’s third album with a polar opposite to “Teeth.” The song is a lovely ending with beautiful acoustic guitar chords, simple beats, and melodic vocals that are constantly changing pitch and sound exquisitely desperate. Cage the Elephant ends Melophobia with one of its best songs to date, leaving fans itching for more.
Melophobia is the right direction for Cage the Elephant and speaks wonders for its potential and ability to change with each release. The whole album is a fun, summer jam that makes one wish that the season and the music would never end. Unfortunately, the album is just barely over 35 minutes, so it may end before you’ve had enough.
Cage the Elephant – Melophobia tracklist:
- “Come a Little Closer”
- “It’s Just Forever”
- “Take it or Leave it”
- “Black Widow”
- “Cigarette Daydreams”