Sounds: Cage the Elephant

posted by / Sounds / March 14, 2011

Cage the Elephant

I was given Cage the Elephant’s self-titled debut album a few years back. Gave the first track one listen and basically wrote them off. I try to never disregard a band without giving their whole record a listen, but I just thought there was nothing for me at all.

Fast forward to two months ago. My girlfriend, who is the Creative Coordinator at Jive Records/Sony Music Entertainment, put us on the list for a private industry showcase. When I heard it was Cage the Elephant, I was reluctant to say the least. But I’m not one to turn down an intimate showcase with a band that is gaining so much notoriety. To assuage my girl’s dismay that I wasn’t into them, and since I’d been hearing how good they were for years, I went.

As soon as they came out, I was doing the usual “kind of listen but not my thing.” Then, about 30 seconds in, I found myself stomping my feet, bobbing my head and anticipating the next riff, change up and fill. They absolutely blew my wig back. I was floored, humbled and apologetic all at once.

Through the set, in which they played the entire new album, Thank you, Happy Birthday, from top to bottom, they were brimming with intricate guitar chords, thumping, hard-hitting percussion beats and screaming, screeching vocals in the vein of Kurt Cobain that we are in such dire need for. If a savior was ever so needed for garage grunge, it is now. With Cage The Elephant, we give you the modern Jesus Christ of this genre. Complete with the image. Wearing non-skin-tight jeans and regular T-shirts, they spit in the face of the trendiness that is music today. Where you have to look cool to sound good, they call bullshit.

Live, they are beyond tight, with amazing timing, incredible harmonies, and there is an undeniable connection between them. Amidst a room full of some of the most important figures in music and the most important people at their label, they are lost and locked into their own place and time. They give the impression that, regardless of a record contract or none, they would be doing it all the same.

The front man, Matthew Schultz, is a complete lunatic. The crowd, filled with executives in suits from the label and SONY were all front and center. Halfway through the set, I’m going to say that each and every one of them wished they hadn’t been where they were. With Matthew screaming in their faces the chorus from, “Indy Kidz” (“You’re so cool, I want to be just like you!!!!!”) right before diving on top of them, only to land on the ground and then use their shoulders as ladders to stand on top of their thousand-dollar suits while gripping the ceiling and screaming the chorus. At this sight, I was instantly a massive fan. Then, Matthew tackled the bass payer off of the stage — stating, at least in my mind, that they do what they want whenever they want. They get lost in their art. THAT is the trait of a true artist that is there for the music. For the love and passion of it. This band bleeds that passion.

Once the set was done, Matthew came back out, alone, and picked up a guitar. He struck a few chords and threw it on the ground. “That thing is terribly out of tune. So I’m just gonna do this without it. I apologize if it sounds like shit,” he said. He then sang “Right Before my Eyes” in its entirety a capella, keeping tune and timing throughout.

In a time when more bands/artists than not put as much emphasis on their boots, jackets and tight jeans as the music, Cage The Elephant let the music and energy in their performance sculpt their image. Though the labels may be driving them to tune up their look, they seem reluctant to change. They are possibly the most refreshing act to hit the mainstream in years. Cage the Elephant is the perfect pseudonym for them. They are the elephant in the room that needs to be caged. They put the fear into the pseudo bands out there that won’t be standing once the “Cage” storms through. —Luke Ditella




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  • Dennis

    Are those dudes in the photograph the same dudes who don’t look cool? Cause I’m pretty sure they do (look cool). I mean, skinny gray jeans – check. Neon (non “regular”) tee – check. Vest – check. I don’t think anyone of reasonable sanity would approach any of those guys on the street and be all, “Which accounting firm are you with?”

  • Luke

    Considering this is a photo orchestrated by a stylist for the labels promo, this is not what they were wearing times I saw them. I will agree with you that this photo does not scream the image I am saying they portray, but, they were all on Leno wearing shirts and shit straight from the 90’s. Again, I agree. This photo doesn’t paint them the way they are.

  • Kelso

    Well done – I felt the same way many years back.
    I particularly agree with your comment, “They are possibly the most refreshing act to hit the mainstream in years”.

  • t

    good stuff. nice one luke.

  • ClaireDB

    hehe, dont sit in the front row!
    planning to see them soon – loved your write up

  • M

    Can’t wait to see them again!!

  • Dell

    tight pants or not, its their performance that makes it all worth it… i wish you could stream their new album from this site

  • run

    i like your styles

  • AC

    worth every penny!

  • Jr.

    Glad they turned your head around.

  • Dave Carlson

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • rick cain

    singer is average, band is good.
    quit making them into something more
    …white stripe/beck wanna-be’s

  • choirboy

    glad to see your GF set you straight

  • chain wallet

    yeah, their performance of Shake Me Down on Fuel was impressive – that’s one of the best modern rock songs out right now. Reminds me of Local God by Everclear. and I’m kinda feeling that one pixies-esque vocal part:)

    ps, like the part about the “suits” and how your GF wrks for the band. no hate, well written piece.

  • hipster

    yeah bros, i listen to “cage”….
    yeah, douche on.

  • 5 jakes

    these guys are kooks

  • Mike

    Ahhh the ever so popular keyboard negative person. About time someones honest about their music taste. Cage is great. Seen em a bunch.

  • russian

    its about time people recognize good music.. its a shame you have people here who just hate

  • lazy susan

    success breeds envy.
    when you get a major label deal then you can talk.

  • Chopper

    Good read Luke, Rock on brotha!

  • reece

    The author doesn’t has much experience in writing articles on this field. When making comparisons to “Kurt Cobain”, there was little mention of the bands’ actual musicianship, but we did get to read a generalized school boy crush essay. Why does anyone want to hear about this guy’s girlfriend? False personal bravado: typical surfing-the-mag junior high dunce writing 101. Get back in the water. This isn’t worth a shill.

  • DussTinn

    @Luke. I’m not a Bible scholar, but something tells me the “Jesus Christ of this genre” would be able to select their own wardrobe, even in the face of a “photo orchestrated by a stylist for the labels promo.” I mean, if JC was such a rebel, he’d probably throw up a “talk to the hand” and be all, “No thanks evil label person from the label I signed to, I won’t be forced into your hipster threads! I’m going with my OWN wardrobe!” (note: would probably be a long white robe).

    And your whole “music is sooooo trendy today” and “us v.them/these effing suits!” arguments are as timeless as they are silly. But you’ll figure this out when you graduate…from 8th grade.

    @Lazy Susan. Just so we’re clear, until I’ve secured a major label record deal, I can’t say another band sucks? Even on some message board (at Surfing no less)? Man, those are some tough terms! I seriously hope all the dudes at Mojo, Pitchfork and Rolling Stone have major labels deals or this world is a fraud! A fraud I say!!!!

  • Luke

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. No need to attack me just bc of an opinion I have on a band. On a chat thread no less. Since everyone seems an authority on everything, especially music, lets see you’re musical top five. Actually, just pick one and write about it on here. Then, when I write these kind of praising words about those acts, you’ll all like me.

    The fact I mentioned my girlfriend was to explain how I ended up at the show in the first place. Not to ignite a bunch of hatred.

  • Luke

    Also, I wasn’t equating Jesus to being a rebel. It was a statement about the band playing a genre of music that seems to be falling by the wayside at the moment and trying to bring it back.

  • robot

    i am dying to listen to Cage the Elephant…… as opposed to Cage the Hippo…. blah, blah, blah… dude, Kurt Cobain bros………..

    Fact: no one cares about anyone’s opinion on music, but especially from those who cannot play an instrument well or have ever produced music.

    Garbage inputs = Garbage outputs. Thanks for playing.

  • ronjon

    4:00 high….

    man, where and when do you want me to bring the article? Its your move. we could meet behind the bleachers. i will bring the article and my friends. we will both read ours out loud. if i win, i get to rip yours up. and if you win, i get to rip yours up. my mom will have to pick me up at 4:00pm for a dentist appt. and piano lessons….

  • chain wallet

    Why respond Luke? These surf journalists rarely ever respond to message board criticism (except when they have to make apologies concerning satirical racism.) Be stoked that your getting a bunch of responses to your post. “aloha”

  • Ariel

    How is Cage The Elephant their “pseudonym?” I think that’s the ACTUAL name of the band. Or do they have another, more well known, name they go by?

    But enough journalistic nitpicking, let’s see “you’re” musical top five. hehehe

  • Ed

    I love how everyone is a music critic.. You guys all probably don’t play an instrument, and even more so, if you do, your music probably blows!! You are the same type of people who sit back and criticize guys like Luke, and bash the music industry for putting out “shitty” music.. Until you guys actually make “waves” in the music industry, then keep your mouths shut. Everyone always talks a big game on the internet, under the guise of anonymity. It’s quite hilarious!

    If you knew anything about the music industry, shots like the photo above, are usually dictated by industry execs. You guys would also say that they “sold out” because they are promoting an “image”. If you want to actually make money in the music industry, and have a normal life, you sometimes have to do things that you wouldn’t “like” to do. You guys are the same type of people who loves some INDIE band from the UK that no one knows about, and then when they start gaining notoriety, you bash them and say they “sold out”. It should be all about the music, and not whether or not they are popular.

    I see it all the time.. A guy goes out in NYC or LA wearing a “Doors” shirt, and has a bunch of tattoos, but doesn’t know a thing about music.. And some stupid chick thinks he’s Slash and wants to go home with him.. Whether you like it or not, people still focus on an “image” as lame as it may be.. It’s just reality!

    And for those of you who hate “popular music” and always say how it’s so crappy, I encourage you to write a hit song.. It’s really not as easy as it seems!! But I’m sure all of you guys could have written songs like the Beatles.. Silly me!

  • BravadoKiller

    Cheers Ed!
    when did this go from music to a personal attack? i think any article or individual able to stir up this much of a energy is worth something. at this point im just following along to see whose gonna swing the next punch.
    my vote is on the author’s side though. its just an opinion paper and we are all entitled..but the written blood bath on here is beyond childish.. if you dont give a damn about the music, why did you click the link to begin with?

  • Ariel

    How ironic Ed, that your “all about the music” screed follows a piece focused as much on image and the perceived evil of a “thousand dollar suits” as the music itself.

    And seriously dude, if writing a hit song is the lone caveat for being critical, than 99.9% of all critical writing is invalid. And well, that’s just not true. It’s the DISPARITY between artists and those who dissect or contexualize art that actually PROGRESSES art. If artists (journalists among them) were immune from criticism, art would be stagnant, boring. You know why? Cause “artists” don’t like to critique other artists. If Elvis Costello saw Katy Perry at a dinner party, he wouldn’t say, “Your new single sucks.” That task falls on CRITICS. They are separate – and necessary – entities.

    All forms of art released to the public are and always will be subject to criticism and, if you don’t like it, you can say so. That’s called being “critical” and it’s more than just cool…it’s essential.

    p.s. Cage The Elephant are super contrived. I’d suggest Parts & Labor for a genuine blast of post-Husker aggression.

  • Richard

    I agree with the writer on this article. Cage the Elephant is definitely the antithesis to the oversaturated/ manufactured catalogues we’re used to hearing on the radio. They embody 90’s alternative rock with thrash like elements of Nirvana’s “Bleach.” It’s no wonder why they reached #1 on I-Tunes during the week of their release.

    It seems like there is more focus on causing a stir in an online platform rather than informing audiences about the band itself. Music is a great outlet for fans, consumers or any other enthusiasts to discuss their opinions through an open dialogue. Not everyone has to like a band. But when you are an open minded person you can admit where a band is talented even though it might not resonate with your own personal taste. Please stop being ignorant with these inconsequential comments. Let’s keep the discussion going about music.

    Does anyone else recommend any good bands in the same vein of Cage?

  • Adam Bryznewski From Little Silver NJ

    wow. everyone’s really got a big fucking mouth full of big fucking opinions shit-talking people when they are commenting on the internet.

    you fucking morons.

  • suicide

    Why does the singer have a gun to his head?
    There is nothing funny about suicide. With mental health now being dropped from many government programs, we will sadly see a rise in the area. These gents are upper crust peckers for posturing up. Publicity photo or not. Absolutely zero class mate, we just don’t joke about this stuff in Oz.

  • robot

    There are no personal attacks on here.
    The author is a poor writer.

  • 48 year old man

    Ariel, I sincerely hope you’re not insinuating that Katy Perry’s new album sucks.

  • tuskagee

    No, I am insinuating that 48 year old man enjoys Ms. Katy’s nice rack. It appears they will look better after she has a baby. She may reach beyond an F cup. Cage is an A cup that doesn’t get much attention.

  • hazelle


  • wetsuit

    this band sucks

  • robot-zombie

    wetsuit wth is wrong with you? these guys are LEGEN wait for it… DARY!