Cage the Elephant: Perfect punk


by Matthew de Klerk
Pic: Candace Longoria

Serendipity is described as the propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated. Although usually attributed to great inventions such as penicillin, LSD and modern plastics, it is also the cause of my completely off-chance discovery of the exciting and exhilarating punk-rock band that is Cage the Elephant.

Cage the Elephant (originally known as Perfect Confusion) is an American alternative or punk-rock band that features short songs with fast, hard-edged music ingeniously crafted from stripped-down instrumentation and political, anti-establishment lyrics.

I am by no means a punk man. Say the words ?alternative? and ?rock? in the same sentence, and I usually take a wide detour around the album in question. This explains exactly why I donned my earphones with trepidation and caution when I listened to the band?s eponymous debut album, Cage the Elephant.

Arguably the best track in their album, Ain?t no rest for the Wicked is the song that first piqued my interest in the band (when I heard it for the first time as the introductory theme song in the critically-acclaimed video game Borderlands). The raw, stripped-down sound of guitarists Brad Shultz and Lincoln Parishs? raw, as-they-are riffs immediately sets your foot tapping. The song heavily features a catchy, heart-pounding bassline and guitar riffs so dirty it feels as if you have your ear to the ground in the middle of a punk earthquake. This is only amplified and improved in In One Ear, with Matt Shultz?s taunting, rebellious tone (reminiscent of Bob Dylan?s rough and rhythmic style), Free Love with its quick, heart-racing, nonstop assault of raw vocals and guitar that wouldn?t be out of place in a Stereophonics or Red Hot Chili Peppers album, and Tiny Little Robots with its sudden tempo changes and dirty riffs that crackle with the band?s unique energy, all the while nailed together nicely by Jared Champion?s drum mastery. It is clear to see why British indie music bible New Musical Express has praised their work as ?exhilarating, 100 mph stuff?.

At times, however, their songs can tend to be a bit samey, as if they have taken a tight grasp of their genre and desperately don?t want to let go, and some songs, such as James Brown, are nearly discordant because of their strange genre marriage. Also, the raw, edgy sound can be a bit abrasive at times, and is not really suited for quieter listening. However, this isn?t necessarily a bad thing: it ensures that their songs regularly deliver the intense, raw sound that the band is characteristically known for. This, coupled with the songs? shortness, means that you will enjoy their album even if you pick a song entirely at random.

All in all, Cage the Elephant is from start to finish a  genre-defying blend of funk, punk, furious guitar and rock-steady rhythm. I can definitely see the band going places in the future, and I await their upcoming album (set for release in early 2011) with fervent excitement. I would definitely recommend that you give it a listen. If bands like Stereophonics, Green Day or The Offspring ring your bell, then Cage the Elephant will bring your bell tower down.


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