Grammy winners, one-time Billboard chart record-setters, Cage the Elephant have been firing off hits for over ten years, flitting between blues, garage, grunge and indie rock with ease. Last time out ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ adopted some of producer Dan Auerbach’s Black Keys blues crunch, on new effort ‘Social Cues’ there’s more than a tinge of Beck’s smart alt radio-rock. He guests on the offbeat groove ‘Night Running’ but his influence can be found across the record as the Shultz brothers try their hand at a more pop-savvy brand of guitar rock.
Written in large part about the breakup of singer Matt Shultz’s relationship, his vocals are more considered than ever and the arrangements more precise than the ramshackle garage rock of their early releases. Single ‘Ready to Go’ bounces along on an infectious beat and will probably make an EA Sports soundtrack come autumn. ‘House of Glass’ is the closest reminder of their earlier hits, squalling guitar solos and a driving backbeat that hurtles through its 180-second runtime.
‘Loves the Only Way’ then u-turns from finger-picked guitar into a luxuriant croon, complete with a swelling string section, showing they can do tender as well as toe-tapping. Speaking of which, see ‘Dance Dance’ (no relation to Fall Out Boy), a fuzzy, funky jam with stuttered lyrics and subtle harp on the fringes. ‘Goodbye’ finishes the album on a sorrowful tone, violins tingeing the closer with a mournful edge.
While not breaking remarkable new ground, Cage the Elephant are nonetheless more adept than most at shapeshifting through the confines of a modern guitar band. This latest take is business as usual in terms of quality while showing off some new tricks.