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Cage the Elephant tops their debut with Thank You, Happy Birthday

The album cover for the 2011 album "Thank You, Happy Birthday"

Anthony Scianna, Content Editor

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In 2009 the alternative rock band Cage the Elephant burst onto the scene with their critically acclaimed self titled debut album. Two years later they’re back with “Thank You, Happy Birthday,” the sophomore effort from the band and their first release since the self titled album. The album is a step in a different direction creatively and features the band showing off a variety of different styles opposed to sticking to one style like they did on “Cage the Elephant”.

The most interesting thing about “Thank You, Happy Birthday” and Cage the Elephant in general is their extremely original and energetic sound. Throughout their 2009 debut, Cage the Elephant used more of a chaotic, fast garage rock sound with a lot of rapping from lead singer Matt Schultz. There were also elements of funk, classic rock, and hip hop throughout the album that when put together made an original and fun sound that could appeal to everyone. While it was energetic and entertaining, it also at times sounded very similar to the bands they took major influence from like the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Rolling Stones. Overall it was a very solid debut and really put the band in the limelight after the success of the first single from the album “Aint No Rest for the Wicked”.

Despite the success of the first album, the band went in a different direction with “Thank You, Happy Birthday” and the result was at times a more matured better Cage the Elephant. The first single of the album, “Shake me Down”, is a shining example of that. Centered around verses based off a simple guitar riff that builds up to the chorus, “Shake me Down” is a solid first single that represents the album well. It doesn’t sound that different from their first album, but it sounds like a more focused mature band that has improved for the better.

For the most part, “Thank You, Happy Birthday” is a very solid album from start to finish, but its shining moment comes during a three song stretch that features the best soft ballad (“Rubber Ball”) and two of the best songs on the album, “Right Before My Eyes” and “Around my Head”. Both have pop heavy choruses, but “Right Before my Eyes” picks up where “Rubber Ball” leaves off with a much softer approach where “Around my Head” sounds much more similar to something on “Cage the Elephant”. The album closer “Flow” is a seven minute ballad with half of the song dedicated to the song and the other half a hidden track after a little bit of silence. The hidden track is an alternate version of “Right Before my Eyes,” which is an appropriate ending considering “Right Before My Eyes” is arguably the best song on the album.

Despite clear focus for many songs on the album, some songs steer clear of that style and prefer the chaotic and sometimes unusual sound that made them famous. While these songs have their quality moments, they aren’t as strong as other songs on the album. The song “Indy Kidz”, for example, shows lead singer Matt Schultz taking a shot at the normal claiming “…it’s so easy to just step aside, and walk in line like all the rest, but I never did well on tests.” To add to the theme the whole song sounds like it could take place in an asylum and is on the hinge of being out of control. Although an interesting song, compared to the quality of some of the songs on the album it gets lost on first listen.

“Cage the Elephant” was a solid debut album that made the music industry stops and see what this new band from Bowling Green, Kentucky had to offer. Their first single sparked national interest and got the band featured in video games and movies. With “Thank you, Happy Birthday” Cage the Elephant sounds like a more focused, determined band that will be making albums for a long time. But it’s going to be hard to top this one.

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Cage the Elephant tops their debut with Thank You, Happy Birthday