Article by Andrés Alvarado
Nashville-based sextet Cage the Elephant have long operated on a broad landscape of musical genres and rhythmic fusions. From grunge to synth pop, disco ragers like 2013’s “Teeth” to punk blues and everything in between. That being said, it comes as no surprise that the indie rockers would experiment a tad more; and that they have. Nonetheless, what does initially raise eyebrows and peak interests is their obviously enhanced ability to sling out shrewder lyrics that have come with age, relatable everyday experiences, and, of course, that rock-star lifestyle. Coming off 2015’s Grammy-winning Tell Me I’m Pretty, the Matt Shultz-led gang appear more confident, more sincere, more accepting of the men they have become on their path to their latest effort, Social Cues.
At the forefront of Social Cues lies the explosive nature of opener “Broken Boy.” An unapologetic pedal-to-the-metal banger that kicks in the door and gets the party started. For all intents and purposes, “Broken Boy” might just be the closest to the band’s 2013 psychedelic Melophobia sound.
By contrast, a tinge of accessible synth pop follows with namesake track “Social Cues.” A track akin to the Portugal. The Man type of vibe. It is a catchy number that further exposes the versatility by which Cage the Elephant operates on an album to album basis.
The one and only Beck guests on the delightfully suave and addictive “Night Running.” A single rife of bopping and intoxicating riffs and well coordinated vocals that just oomph up the emotion and likability of this collaboration.
If Cage the Elephant can be pinned down to any one type of quintessential tonality, then anthems “Ready To Let Go” and “Dance Dance” may be the most indicative of that classic CtE quality. Grounded to the original bluesy alt-rock mantra, this duo boomerangs back to those early days of Cage the Elephant euphoria.
Like opener “Broken Boy,” thumper “House of Glass” is a ready, set, go type of engaging piece. Rooted on some city techno sensitivities, Shultz and company go balls-to-the-wall high octane berserk on this one — and it is rather intriguingly hunky-dory.
Like most albums, Social Cues contains tales of deep personal trials and tribulations. The most obvious case being album closer “Goodbye.” A somber note of acceptance hovers around this melody, as Matt Shultz opens up about his failed marriage. While the topic darkens a soul, the harmony delivery is simply heavenly, heartfelt, and hopeful.
Overall, Social Cues is a monumental testament to what an open and exploratory mind can achieve when it is not afraid to search within. A step up from Tell Me I’m Pretty and, quite frankly, the gang’s most creative effort to date. Simply stated, Social Cues is a forthright look inward, an exposé detailing a frightening and maturing journey, and one heck of a rock-n-roll record.
Album Score: 9/10 — Key Tracks: Social Cues, House of Glass, Night Running, Ready To Let Go, and Goodbye.