“Tell Me I’m Pretty” Album Review


Brock Burnett

Cage the Elephant is an alt/indie-rock band from Kentucky that has one of the most interesting identity complexes in the mainstream music industry right now. With the release of their newest album “Tell Me I’m Pretty,” their identity becomes even further muddied.

Before their breakout record “Melophobia,” I had heard of the band, but I wasn’t necessarily the biggest fan. Yes, I enjoyed the corny, angsty songs they put out like “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “In One Ear,” but they weren’t a favorite for me. “Melophobia” changed my mind though.

“Melophobia” was the band’s first time exploring a sound they could truly call their own. With their previous two albums, the influences from bands like Nirvana or the Pixies were certainly overt. “Melophobia” was the band beginning to find a sound that belonged to them, and this new sound worked for them. It scored them a Grammy nomination and many new fans, me included.

“Melophobia” had an allure that couldn’t be found in the previous Cage the Elephant albums. Lead singer Matt Shultz experiments with his voice on songs like “Spiderhead” and “Black Widow” in ways that are really interesting and appealing. The instrumentation is wild, and the production is great. The whole album has a kind of exotic and schizophrenic feel to it. It was a sound that Cage was able to rock and claim as their own.

“Tell Me I’m Pretty” tones things down from “Melophobia.” Shultz plays it safe with his vocals. He showed his abilities vocally on “Melophobia,” but none of the songs on “Tell Me I’m Pretty” have that same schizophrenic wavering voice that Shultz displayed previously. The instrumentation also seems weaker on this release. Cage the Elephant strips back some of the frills and cacophonous sounds that gave “Melophobia” its unique sound.

The production and instrumentation on this album is something to note, as Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys comes on to produce the album. Auerbach’s presence is definitely felt throughout the album, especially on songs like “Too Late To Say Goodbye.” Auerbach’s presence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I feel like it detracts from Cage the Elephant’s potentially new identity they forged with “Melophobia.” Cage the Elephant struggled to find their own sound for a long time. However, after releasing an album with its own unique sound, they follow-up with an album that sounds all too similar to bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kooks, the White Stripes and obviously, the Black Keys. These bands’ influences on “Tell Me I’m Pretty” reminds me of the overt influences found on the band’s first two albums.

Despite this new sound, Cage the Elephant puts out some decent songs on this release. Songs like “Cold, Cold, Cold” and “Mess Around” are catchy and nice listens. They are just some fun rock songs covered in some fuzzy guitar riffs and sinister sounding keyboards. These songs are nice, but overall, the album as a whole doesn’t stand out to me. Their sound reverts back a bit to where they were previously, and it just seems like they didn’t try to out do what was done on their previous album.

All of that aside, “Tell Me I’m Pretty” isn’t a bad record by any means. Cage the Elephant reverts to a garage rock sound that works just fine. It just feels underwhelming compared to the success of “Melophobia”. The band goes for a less ambitious sound. They set the bar high with the zaniness found in their previous album, and I feel like they failed to even reach the bar with this latest release. Overall, “Tell Me I’m Pretty” is not a bad album, but with the band’s history of struggling to try to find their own identity, I feel like this album was not as unique or impressive as “Melophobia.”

Score: 6.5/10