After throwing out nearly 80 songs and starting over to make 2011’s Thank You, Happy Birthday, the band took a different method in writing and recording Melophobia. Still, there were several challenges.
For one, after enjoying some time off for the first time in five years of nonstop work the quintet split up to develop material individually.
By the time they reconvened with longtime producer Jay Joyce, there were a lot of ideas, and with those, some strong convictions as to the direction different songs should go. Perhaps that uncertainty early in the process led Cage the Elephant to the album’s title, which is defined as the fear of music.
“We did have a lot of fears to overcome,” guitarist Brad Shultz told MusicRadar. “We kind of didn’t know what we had as we were making the record, and we had to understand and accept a lot of things about ourselves. And there were definitely times when things got tense.”
Melophobia should be considered great work – a collection of eclectic rock songs that are ambitious and catchy and earnest.
The lead single “Come a Little Closer” possesses all of those qualities. A rolling bassline is complimented by Matt Shultz’s howling voice and a bell-ringing riff from Brad on the chorus. The hook is one that can plant itself in the mind and refuse to leave, perhaps their most-addictive on the entire album and well worthy of the buzz it generated over the summer.
“Spiderhead” is right up there, however. Beginning with a Black Sabbath-like intro, the track tips its hat to doo-wop, with a plinking piano and handclaps. There are definite surf influences with the dark “It’s Just Forever,” a tale of two lovers telling each side of their borderline-obsessive relationship. With Allison Mosshart of the Kills lending her voice to the female story, the song has a gritty feel, as she spits, “Promise that you’ll never leave me! … Give me your heart like a hole in the head!”
The album’s final song, “Cigarette Daydreams,” seems like the farthest departure of a typical Cage the Elephant song. While an acoustic guitar strums along, Shultz croons about someone who was “So sweet, with a mean streak” that he was nearly “brought to his knees.” The addition of a slide guitar gives it even more depth, too.
A horn section is really highlighted during “Hypocrite,” where the instruments come in and out to perk the listener’s ears.
Cage the Elephant could also have found a new set closer – or at least a way to jack up the crowd’s energy – with “Teeth,” which seems to throw everything in a blender, from a staccato drum beat, brassy bleats, boogieing guitars and a spastic refrain that will undoubtedly send Shultz writhing across the stage.
Having just come off a series of tour dates with English arena-fillers Muse, Cage the Elephant got the chance to play a few of the new songs to North American audiences this fall. But once Melophobia is available, fans can expect the band to incorporate more of these fresh gems into their setlist.
For more information, visit Cage the Elephant’s official website.