Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The morning that Cage The Elephant arrived at the Horseshack, bassist Daniel Tichenor was ready to throw his phone against the wall. He sat on the couch in our lounge area, pecking away on the blasted contraption, grumbling in a grouchy, early-morning way that you might use if the milk for your coffee turned out to be curdled as it poured or the doggie you've never completely loved had taken a whiz in the shoes you were about to step into. But this was more serious and an on-going issue, collaborative and cumulative. It had reached a boiling point. His mobile phone's calling plan was in question, its service a joke and his phone was a useless rectangle of chips and numbers that deserved bloody murder. Tichenor, still cussing up a storm under his breath, later asked to borrow a bandmate's phone - obviously once to many times. It was a good look into not just a domestic dispute between a man and a piece of technology he was more than reliant upon, but a look into the lifeblood of this band from Bowling Green, Kentucky, that is raging in the United Kingdom, has played at Bonnaroo and is just beginning to crack the consciousness of an American public that should already consider them buzzworthy. It takes some time over here though, as this large country and its fickle music devourers aren't won over in lumps, but in singles - as unfortunate as that is. These Kentucky boys even went so far last year as to live in the UK for a good majority of it as their luck fared better faster there, playing their punk rock-tinged anthems of angst and inscrutable bitterness for adoring fans and garnering the heart of the country's king of rock and roll rags, NME. Cage The Elephant rage against the aspects of life that get everyone a little riled up - dumb people, idiocy and big corporations run by dumb people. They get pissy and instead of whining, they bitch and shed some of that fever that gets them all high strung in the first place with these songs of youthful unburdening. Vocalist Matt Shultz lays into his microphone with a need to get many things off his chest and the way that they come off his chest are in flashes and throws, little bucking barbs that are so poignant because they're full of punch and smarts. There are many good and claimable reasons why the Europeans have already taken a shining to the band's self-titled debut record and its hit single "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked," as the sound is an undeniably interesting cocktail of many different and odd sonic disciplines that they've been ga-ga for of late. A band with which Cage could share many pieces of DNA with is the Arctic Monkeys, and this bag of songs has a feel of a different sort of night out on the town - nothing like the one the Monkeys soundtracked on their debut, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not." The night out, in this instance, seems to get seedier and even less on the up-and-up, more of the third shift variety where people are still earning their bread instead of getting playfully shit-canned. These are almost the songs of the graveyard shifters, if the graveyard shifters were in their early 20s, fresh out of college and lost in a fog. These are songs that are weirdly brash and blue collar like the hip punk rock that Kid Rock would/would never make (that's supposed to be complimentary - to both parties, presumably) and it carries with it a hopeful sort of dejectedness that chaperones all of Mike Skinner of The Streets' offerings - as if there's a better world out there, minus manipulation, minus greed and judgment that probably can't be attained, but it's going to always bug the hell out of everyone trying to get there.