When you consider yourself a music aficionado (I.E. hipster douche bag) it becomes progressively harder to admit when you weren't the first on the scene or the man who got the leak 5 months early. Sometimes great music slips through the cracks like sand in the palm of a child. Cage The Elephant is the the one band that I consider myself late upon finding. Having gotten into them only about 6 months ago, I'm quite on time with this new album, Thank You Happy Birthday, and I'm glad because this album worth talking about.
Thank You Happy Birthday is rough from the start, It kicks the listener in the teeth (even harder for the people who knew and loved old CTE) with the opening track "Always Something", a dark, grungy, cracked out beat and Matt Shultz crooning out dank and slimy lyrics. It's repulsing for a second, it really is, I had to collect myself. I remember the opener for their Self Titled debut being a straight punk-rock'n-roll song that any music lover could get into.
When you're blown back by a mean and dark song you think the whole album can't measure up to what you want...but I believe that's the band way of flexing off the old coat and showing something new. Cage The Elephant impressed me, because as you move into the more catchy and digestible "Aberdeen", you figure out that the first song is a bold choice to scare away any casual fans and leave the devoted alive. It's that sensibility that makes me love the band even more.
Cage The Elephant definitely ran the gambit as far as tone with Thank You Happy Birthday, leaving the listener guessing as to what the next song will hold. For instance, "Indy Kidz" is the most difficult but ultimately rewarding tracks, full of lyrical irony and self-examination, while being dark and grungy. But then the next song, "Shake Me Down" is lush with fantastic indie-pop-punk moments, and is the most Radio Friendly I've ever heard Cage The Elephant (and that's counting Rest For The Wicked). TYHB is interesting in a good sense in the simple way the album combination Violent Femmes like alternative-punk songs with the youthful indie-rock songs that sound more likely to be found on a Tokyo Police Club album.
Thank You Happy Birthday has some tough songs. Some have Matt Shultz screaming in your face, others have him singing gently. It's a neat turn of events for a fan of Post-Punk and Post-Hardcore. For fucks sake the final song "Flow" ends with light strumming and fleet foxes like drumming, but someone screaming lightly in the background. It's a gorgeous ending, one that really surprised me.
In the end, Cage The Elephant tried to play chameleon this time, and to me it worked. I now have 12 songs that fit just as many moods. This isn't a bad thing, because this album definitely needed to show more varied side of Cage The Elephant, and Thank You Happy Birthday did that, maybe not perfect or genre defying, but it still did it's job wonderfully. For that I think I'll be remember to reminisce on Thank You Happy Birthday later this year when I decide my favorite albums of 2011.
Album Rating: 8.9 - 10