Cage the Elephant – Social Cues (Album Review)

No matter the circumstance, you should always set an obtainable goal as something to aim for. Throughout the career of Kentucky’s Cage the Elephant, they have experimented and implemented different genre styles; never sticking to a pigeonholed system. That in mind, the universal mission throughout their musical journey has always been to be as honest and as truth as possible in their storytelling. Now honing down on that sentiment, with personal struggles acting as the foundation, their latest album Social Cues arrives on Friday, April 19, 2019 through RCA Records.

Coming four years after the success of their critically acclaimed 2015 album Tell Me I’m Pretty, Cage the Elephant return from the shadows with a narrative that cultivates clusters of heartbreak, rebuilding, and reassurance. Their fifth overall album, the band – Matt Shultz (vocals), his elder brother Brad Shultz (guitar), Daniel Tichenor (bass), Jared Champion (drums), Nick Bockrath (guitar), and Matthan Minster piano – for Social Cues, they collaborate with Grammy nominated Producer John Hill; dishing out 13 new songs all over the spectrum of emotion.

Acting as the lead single, and released back in January as a first sample, “Ready to Let Go” set the bar high for the rest of Social Cues, hitting number 1 on US Alternative Rock charts. Found midway through the album, musically, it keeps the mood light, with wispy electric guitar, creating a dreamy, carefree atmosphere with a reassuring message. Amidst the zesty and sassy attitudes of other cuts such as “Night Run,” featuring Beck, on “Ready to Let Go, Matt begins to come to terms with what is happening in his real life; the agony of separation, leading toward a divorce. 

Then, a far twist from their 2008 hit single “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked,” Matt expresses being overwhelmed by the amount of pressure and anxiety that can rise from all eyes focusing on him with “Dance, Dance.” This is while Social Cues’ second single, “House of Glass,” holds a suspenseful, gritty attitude to a steady snare beat. Showing how one can feel isolation within the music industry, it acts as a moment of self-awareness not to get caught up in it all. 

Cutting close to the bone, Cage the Elephant’s honesty shines even brighter with back-to-back tracks “Love’s The Only Way” and “The War Is Over.” What is probably the most heartfelt tune of the album, “Love’s the Only Way” reflects on seeing the sunshine and feeling warmth, despite whatever chaos and rage is ensuing in the outside world. Here, Matt conveys sincerity and a gentleness with his voice that reminds you to stop for the beautiful moments in life. Thereafter, “The War Is Over” continues this optimistic outlook, stating the internal battle of feeling low, building walls, and hiding the heartache, is thankfully over. 

As mentioned, Social Cues is a quite a diverse album, and the experimentation continues with the Pink Floyd inspired “What I’m Becoming.” With a slow tempo, it paints a calming, melancholy picture, while a nice touch of strings sends the mood off into another dimension. Guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings, Matt apologizes for the hurt and pain caused during a time of change in his life. This is while the most recent single off the album, “Goodbye,” features low keys isolated vocals, sending the record off in a tranquil stance. Also a very personal piece about Matt’s divorce, it is easily relatable to anyone who has ever lost someone who they once imagined impossible to live without. Sometimes saying goodbye is the hardest part, but Cage the Elephant does a marvelous job of trying to ease that pain.

Overall, Cage the Elephant still carry the Alt-Pop crown. That said, they explores more of a grunge-like and harsher vibe with Social Cues. In fact, you can feel all of the rigid edges, let alone all of the emotional turmoil that was experienced in putting the album together. Little lyrical hints connect each track to the next, which adds a nice touch to its cohesiveness nature, and making Social Cues another triumph for the band. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Social Cues:
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