Mar 12, 2011

Cage The Elephant - "Thank You Happy Birthday" Review

image from Amazon

Artist: Cage The Elephant
Album: Thank You Happy Birthday
Release Date: January 11, 2011
Tracks: 12
Runtime: 44 minutes, 36 seconds

Track Rundown:
(All ratings out of 5 *'s)

1) "Always Something" - A groovy James Bond vibe, an infectious chorus and a sweet breakdown in the beginning of the last third of the song. This is an excellent way to kick off the album, and it leaves a good impression in my mouth. 5 *'s.

2) "Aberdeen" - If you like Vampire Weekend, which I do, you'll love this song. It's got that great indy-pop-with-punk-influences-on-the-verge-of-going-mainstream sound to it. 5 *'s.

3) "Indy Kidz" - While this isn't a song I can listen to on repeat, I do love it for it's message and delivery. It's so punk rock, and in-your-face non-conformist that it openly mocks all the indy kids and hipsters. The only reason it loses points is because despite artsy/hilarious message, it's a eardrum bleeder. 4 *'s.

4) "Shake Me Down" - The first single from the album. There's either a very hidden point to the lyrics of this song, or my guess, it follows what I call the Nirvana mindset. It doesn't matter what the words mean in their sequence, so long as it sounds good in the big picture. But it really does sound good. It varies in mood, tempo, speed, heaviness, and emotion. Another 5 *.

5) "2024" - A very entertaining song that seems to be inspired from early work from The Clash. There's that somewhat Caribbean influence to the punk rock sound that early punk rock pioneers liked to experiment with. 4 *'s.

6) "Sell Yourself" - Sounds like Jack White at his worst. Far too experimental for my liking. Can't listen to the lyrics, can't listen to the music, just overall hard to take. 2 *'s.

7) "Rubber Ball" - Melodic, hypnotic, and simple to bring you back to simpler times in your life. While effective and worthy of a music video or a soundtrack spot, it's not something I really intend on listening to much ever. Finding a balance, 3 *'s.

8) "Right Before Your Eyes" - I'm sure others will enjoy this song, because it seems similar to popular bands out there, but I can't think of a logical comparison. The best I can do is to say it feels like it fits on the soundtrack to Spiderman 1 or 2. If you didn't own either of these soundtracks, I can only hint that it contains such artists as Pete Yorn, The Strokes, Train, Dashboard Confessional, and Taking Back Sunday. So somewhere in that mix, this song feels right at home. I'm not ragging on this track either, I think it's quite decent, but I can see others complaining it's not a 5 * rating. Instead, it gets a 3 3/4 *s.

9) "Around My Head" - After listening to this song, I'm convinced that Cage The Elephant is master of the "It Factor". If it weren't for the perfectly timed, perfectly placed change-up of tempo in the chorus, this song would have really suffered. Instead, it's a song that just works perfectly in a big-picture kind of way and will keep me coming back. 4 1/2 *'s.

10) "Sabertooth Tiger" - While "Sell Yourself" sounded like Jack White on a bad day, this sounds like Jack White on a good day. I hope Cage The Elephant one day tours with whomever Jack White is touring with at the time (fingers-crossed it'll be The White Stripes). This song is the most experimental head-banging rock I've enjoyed in a long time, and I think it might have to do with Charlie Sheen recently coining the phrase "tiger blood". 4 *'s.

11) "Japanese Buffalo" - While once again feeling like an early Clash song, not much about this song makes me like it. Pretty skippable. 2 *'s.

12) "Flow" - Kind of... like... a camp fire song? Seriously, it's mellow, it's relaxing, it's basically one guitar (acoustic?) and a set of bongo drums. Then there's a pause, and it goes into a bonus alternative version of "Right Before Your Eyes". I dig it, it's cool, but it's not something I'll go out of my way to listen to, especially because I hate 'secret bonus tracks' hidden in long tracks. 3 1/4 *'s.

My Highlights:
"Always Something", "Aberdeen", and "Shake Me Down"

Overall Rating:
Averaging up all of the track ratings, this album comes to an indecisive 3.79 *'s out of 5. So should I round down to 3 3/4 *'s, or up to 4 *'s? Well, using my super-secret-big-picture-brownie-points, I'll say that I really enjoyed their first album more, but not by much more. I wasn't disappointed with this album, but I was intrigued. It's an interesting case, because a lot of great artists will put out a great debut album but either go in the wrong direction with their second album, or beat a dead horse with their second album. I'm not sure if their first album was the band's true colors, or if this were their true colors, but I don't disapprove of either color. I think this is a great buy, and everyone should give this band, and this album a chance. So I'm going to round up and award this album an official 4 *'s out of 5, or 8 *'s out of 10. I live by the rule not to advise anyone to waste money on something rated lower than 3 *'s out of 5, or 6 *'s out of 10 when they could just buy the popular singles, but this album as a whole is worth the money.

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