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Cage The Elephant makes
an even bigger noise on
their sophomore album

Cage The Elephant - Thank You Happy Birthday
(Jive Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 6, 2011
Cage The Elephant

Review by Tony Bonyata

Cage The Elephant's new album Thank You Happy Birthday may be noisy, jagged and chaotic, but it's also an engaging effort that manages to squelch any thoughts of a potential sophomore slump from this young Southern rock quintet.

With explosive, left-field alt-rock, the Bowling Green, KY-based band's 2009 self-titled debut certainly wasn't created for the mass populous, yet it did manage to crossover to mainstream audiences with two smash radio hits "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" and "In One Ear."

So what's a band to do when fame comes a-knocking - continue to create the style of music that's true to their creative spirit, or compromise artistic integrity in order to reach a broader, more mainstream audience? On Thank You Happy Birthday it appears Cage The Elephant has straddled that fine line rather well - blending aggressive, chaotic noise with lovely pop hooks and melodies galore (not unlike how Red Hot Chili Peppers channeled their early freaky funk, metal and skater-dude punk into a more pop-friendly package on their '91 breakthrough album Blood Sugar Sex Magic). The album's first single "Shake Me Down" is a perfect example of this and will have the kids that still tune into Clear Channel's tunnel-visioned alt-rock radio playlist feeling a little bit edgier, as well as lending a sense of romanticism (or is that '90s nostalgia?) to indie hipsters.

There are definitely other tracks on the record that also sound as if they're crafted specifically for heavy radio-play, such as "Around My Head" and the unshakable "Right Before My Eyes." But as far as the general public is concerned, this is where the love affair with this record will come to a screeching halt, as the rest of the album is filled with angst-ridden odes to Frank Black and the Pixies ("Sabertooth Tiger," "Japanese Buffalo" and "Aberdeen"), as well as tunes that even twist in a bit of abrasive drop-D metal, angular math-rock time changes and the excruciating death-howls of Ministry's Al Jourgensen ("Indy Kidz" and "Sell Yourself").

The band tempers their aggressiveness with the pensive and gentle ballad "Rubber Ball" as well as the perfectly crafted pop of "Right Before My Eyes," which, with their key placements in the middle of the album's track list, serve as a cleansing meditative breather before the band begins their musical ransacking.

It may not always be pretty, but even when it's not, Cage The Elephant's Thank You Happy Birthday is a challenging and welcome effort.

Related articles:

Cage The Elephant (Voodoo Music Experience 2010) - Festival review - New Orleans, LA - October 2010
Cage The Elephant (Summerfest 2010) - Photo Gallery - Milwaukee, WI - July 2010
Cage The Elephant (Summerfest 2009) - Photo Gallery - Milwaukee, WI - July 2009
Cage The Elephant - basement tapes session #18
Cage The Elephant - Cage The Elephant Album review

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