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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Thank You, Happy Birthday Cage the Elephant

By Frankie Farrar-Helm/entertainment editor

Thank You, Happy Birthday, Cage the Elephant’s second album, is almost a different genre of music than its 2008 debut self-titled album.

Released Jan. 11, Thank You, Happy Birthday shows the band’s growth from mainstream alternative rock music to generic indie music.

Sometimes, reinvention can be beneficial in a band’s music. Bands that can grow by not relying solely on the sound that marked their fame can typically gain a longer future, bringing in a newer fan base. Cage has done just that.

The Kentucky-based five-piece band consists of Matt Shultz (vocals), his brother Brad Shultz (guitar) and their friends Daniel Titchenor (bass), Lincoln Parish (guitar) and Jared Champion (drums).

Matt, Brad and Daniel grew up in an alternative religious community built up by their hippie parents. Pop music was forbidden, so their discovery of punk rock influences didn’t arrive until the band was formed in 2005. The band benefited from growing up in an area where older rock has a wide appeal.

After touring with Queens of the Stone Age in late 2007, the band relocated for a short time to Britain, where its debut album, Cage the Elephant, was released in mid-2008. Driven by a Top 40 charting single, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” the album has sold more than 40,000 copies to date in the U.K. After extensive touring there, the band returned home proud, hot-headed and ready to take over.

The debut album brings together an eclectic range of music. The essence of the Arctic Monkeys, Pearl Jam and Kings of Leon create Cage’s exaggerated, larger-than-life rock explosions.

The rock ’n’ roll album is a punch in the face. Listeners with an open ear will immediately find themselves tapping their feet, bobbing their heads and pretending to play the drums. The energetic beats, body-shaking drum sounds and loud, wildfire yapping are carefully constructed into a this-is-my-jam catchiness.

The first track of Cage the Elephant, “In One Ear,” brings together the best elements of Jet and the White Stripes, making it an unquestionable volume-cranker-upper. “They say I’m just a stupid kid, just a crazy radical … Another generation X who somehow slipped up through the crack” — these lyrics, aimed toward the Southern hipsters opposed to the band’s musical coming out, certainly make listeners sit up and take notice. “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” the second single from the album, is a sing-along Beck rhythm with a touch of blues that represents Cage’s creative, artistic style. The last track, “Free Love,” features the use of heavy guitar while implementing an eccentric, retro rock sound.

Overall, the album’s dexterous drumming, talented guitar playing and multi-layered choruses leave your emotions all over the place.

With more of an indie approach, Cage brings listeners a full-blown experimentation of twists and turns with Thank You, Happy Birthday. The new album is best described as an up-and-down, intoxicated journey.

The album opener, “Always Something,” begins with an electric, industrial beat then immediately transforms into a ’90s punk rock anthem using lyrics that take the listener back to the band’s debut album. Cage parts the clouds in “Shake Me Down” as the Shultz brothers declare they will “keep their eyes fixed on the sun.”

In the 10th track, “Sabertooth Tiger,” the band uses an up-tempo ska beat before surprising the listener with a transition to an outrageous rock jam session. On the bipolar “Japanese Buffalo,” a frantic, early Nirvana pace is morphed into a slow ’50s diner beat.

Thank You, Happy Birthday has many of the same elements from the first album but paints a much broader musical landscape. Shultz’ imperfect, off-key vocals, innovative jumble of instruments and masterfully written lyrics produce a collection of songs that make the album itself a high. The listener enters into a jungle of dark, ominous choruses, possessed robotic echoes and monkey-like ooo-ooo aah-aah’s.

Thank You, Happy Birthday is simply a masterpiece.

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