Tell Me I'm Pretty Review

artist: Cage the Elephant date: 01/14/2016 category: compact discs
Cage the Elephant: Tell Me I'm Pretty
Released: Dec 18, 2015
Genre: Alternative Rock, Garage Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Blues Rock
Label: RCA
Number Of Tracks: 10
Cage The Elephant continue to shift their musical approach around rather regularly with their fourth studio album, "Tell Me I'm Pretty."
 Sound: 6.5
 Lyrics: 6.5
 Overall Impression: 7
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reviews (2) pictures (1) 15 comments vote for this album:
overall: 6.7
Tell Me I'm Pretty Featured review by: UG Team, on january 14, 2016
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: American rock group Cage The Elephant are perhaps most well known for being eclectic; even when it comes down to their 2008 eponymous debut, the members of this relatively young collective ventured across alternative rock, punk blues, garage rock and indie rock territory while still managing to assemble an album cohesive enough to garnish multiple successful singles and reach Gold sales status. Not ones to stray close to a particular sound or approach, Cage The Elephant would continue to explore psychedelic rock and noise rock frontiers with their subsequent efforts, 2011's "Thank You, Happy Birthday" and 2013's "Melophobia." The band continued to remain relevant through a regular touring and recording schedule, while still making an impact on the charts with singles "Come a Little Closer" and "Shake Me Down," however that was all before it was announced that Cage The Elephant lead guitarist Lincoln Parish had left the lineup and the band traded out longtime producer Jay Joyce in favor of working alongside Dan Auerbach, guitarist and vocalist from The Black Keys.

Such a collaboration resulted in Cage The Elephant's fourth studio album "Tell Me I'm Pretty," which not surprisingly offers a few tracks that sound rather influenced by Auerbach. Case in point, the album's lead single "Mess Around" offers a blend of vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar and keyboards that bears enough resemblance to The Black Keys to declare musical cross contamination; the fact that Auerbach himself offers backup vocals, guitar and keyboards on the record is enough to support the disapproval of dedicated rock purists. Even so, such a departure proves to be only temporary, in typical Cage The Elephant fashion. The opening track "Cry Baby" maintains slight resemblance yet enforces a more brooding chord progression and slightly melancholic vocal melody. "Sweetie Little Jean" is a clear highlight here, alternating between delicate acoustic guitar to a bright, climatic refrain propelled by acoustic guitar and soaring lead vocals from mainman Matt Shultz. "Cold Cold Cold" embodies a slight Rolling Stones influence, particularly attributed by the band's incorporation of hand clapping and brooding vocals over a minimalist guitar arrangement.

These nostalgic elements continue to press through on "Trouble," another one of the album's most memorable selections, largely due to a massive sliding guitar section and some fine lyrical work. Presenting a familiar brand of mid-tempo hard rock, "How Are You True" and "Punchin' Bag" offer more similarities than differences, especially in the vocal department, yet still serve as decent filler. "Portuguese Knife Fight" breaks the repetition with a massive Smashing Pumpkins-esque garage rocker, rounded out by snarling vocals from Shultz and concrete guitar layered beneath eerie synthesizer work and rock solid percussion. While not the full-fledged studio effort some were anticipating, Cage The Elephant have still offered a collection of songs with "Tell Me I'm Pretty" that sounds very warm from start to finish, even if some songs easily exceed others from a compositional standpoint. // 6

Lyrics: Cage The Elephant lead vocalist Matt Shultz delivers a rather memorable performance throughout the band's fourth album. His range is extensive, which accommodates Cage The Elephant's tendency to alternate from style to style on a regular basis. The aforementioned "Portuguese Knife Fight" and "Mess Around" serve as strong examples of the differences featured in Shultz's approach to the main microphone throughout "Tell Me I'm Pretty," however whether the band is dishing out hot servings of adrenalized hard rock or melodic alternative, the vocals always tend to shift appropriately. // 7

Overall Impression: Cage The Elephant continue to shift their musical approach around rather regularly with their fourth studio album, "Tell Me I'm Pretty." While the addition of Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys definitely altered the end result found on this installment, the same could also be said when appointing any producer to the helm of a studio project and Auerbach's contributions to the final product are consistently on par with the expectations of familiar listeners. Even if it's not the band's shining achievement, "Tell Me I'm Pretty" surely stands as a memorable listen. // 7

- Lou Vickers (c) 2016

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overall: 6.7
Tell Me I'm Pretty Reviewed by: Jordanschulte, on january 08, 2016
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: With each album they release, Cage the Elephant seems to improve. Every project they put out has offered something new. Unique production, unconventional songwriting and high-minded lyrics that ranged from introspection to social commentary led to marked improvements in one area or another.

While "Tell Me I'm Pretty" is a fine album, it doesn't feel like part of the band's continual upswing. The songwriting on "Tell Me I'm Pretty" is on par with anything else Cage has created, though to call it a step forward might be a stretch. The band seems to be treading water, and the songwriting at times feels uninspired. Vocalist Matt Schultz's wild and aggressive singing style has slowly been replaced by a trained and measured warble. A few riffs and melodies sound reminiscent of 2011's "Thank You, Happy Birthday" and 2013's "Melophobia." Of course, it may not be fair to expect a group to reinvent itself with each release, but that's the bar the group has set for itself.

When the group announced that the album would be produced by Black Keys guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach, it sounded like a match made in heaven. Auerbach was once known for being a gritty bluesman with a fuzzed-out guitar and the voice of a '50s delta blues singer, and one only need listen to Cage's first album to understand their background in the blues. However, this is the Dan Auerbach of 2015. The man who gave us "Rubber Factory" and "Thickfreakness" is gone, replaced by the one who wrote "Lonely Boy" and "Fever."

Auerbach's influence on certain songs on "Tell Me I'm Pretty" is hard to miss. "Mess Around," with its falsetto vocals and distinctive Black Keys-esque drumbeat (boom, clap clap, boom clap) wouldn't sound out of place on "Turn Blue."

One area where the album does excel is in its diversity. It ranges from radio-ready pop rock on "Mess Around," to a modern take on old western blues on "Too Late to Say Goodbye." "Trouble" is a classic Cage the Elephant ballad with chiming guitars and a singalong chorus, while "Portuguese Knife Fight" recalls the dirty, psychedelic garage rock sound of their native Bowling Green, Kentucky scene. Fans of nearly every genre could find something to appreciate and learn from on this album. // 7

Lyrics: Lyrically, singer Matt Schultz seems to have stagnated. Love songs have often dominated Cage the Elephant's lyric sheets, but never to the extent that they do on "Tell Me I'm Pretty." It's hard to say whether this is the result of Auerbach's influence, who also has a penchant for love songs, or something else, but the result is the same. The uniformity of most of the lyrics are an odd contrast to the impressive diversity of album's songwriting. Schultz has continued to improve as a singer, however, and "Tell Me I'm Pretty" sees him hitting higher notes with less strain more often. While it's tough to argue that Schultz hasn't improved in his singing technique and delivery, it sometimes feels as though that his increased focus on proper singing has come at the cost of expressiveness. // 6

Overall Impression: Cage the Elephant are a group that makes expectations difficult. Every time they appear to be headed in a certain musical direction, they change the formula completely. That inspiration and drive seems to have faded slightly here, but three great albums to one average one is a better track record than most bands could ask for.

"Tell Me I'm Pretty" is by no means a bad album. It's actually quite good. It has everything a Cage the Elephant fan could ask for, and is definitely worth a listen for any fan of modern rock and indie music. Where the band will go from here, as always, is hard to say.
// 7

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