Words by Steve Melone

Many are resistant to change no matter how inevitable and necessary it may be. That’s certainly the case for a number of die-hard Cage the Elephant fans unsure how to react to CTE’s fourth album, Tell Me I’m Pretty, released on RCA records, December 18th 2015.

In the band’s past releases there’s a certain rawness and carelessness that has been present, but that takes a turn with this release. The recording/production quality has jumped with the help of producer and peer, Dan Auerbach. But some are quick to criticize, and numerous comparisons have already been made saying the album is far too reminiscent of The Black Keys sound.

I’ve even heard random passerby’s in conversation say, “That’s not a Cage album, that’s a Black Keys album.” And they have a point, but this album’s sound is something CTE wanted. Frontman Matt Shultz has talked about how critically important and necessary creative control is for the group multiple times over the years. They didn’t sell themselves out; they’re going in a direction they haven’t gone before. While some old fans will be unhappy, new fans will emerge as well. Basically, everything is okay and Cage the Elephant is still Cage the Elephant, not Cage the Black Keys!

Tell Me I’m Pretty, like the previous albums, is clearly influenced by classic rock, blues and funk in some cases. The punk edge that has been present in past release is definitely less so here and is reason for a more tame sound than heard before. Not to say that they are playing it safe, but rather taking a different approach.

The album retains that constant energy that is ever-present with CTE’s music. “That’s Right,” slows things down a bit and utilizing playful lyrical jaunts while emitting a psychedelic tone, “I know tomorrow we may have regrets/ but as for now where’s the party at?”

Other songs like, “Cold Cold Cold,” have an air and feel that are right at home with any CTE favorite you may have, “I’ve been breathing air, but there’s no sign of life. Doctor the problem’s in my chest, my heart feels cold as ice but it’s anybody’s guess.”

The song most accused of sounding ‘Auerbach-esque’ is the album’s biggest hit, “Mess Around.” While I can hear the similarities, I couldn’t say the rest of the album falls under that same umbrella, yet it’s still a song worth hearing. Either way, Tell Me I’m Pretty brings something new to the table that may take new fans in and possibly turn some older ones away, but not because they have betrayed their sound. As a great man once said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.” And we all need good music!

My favorite tracks include, “Cold Cold Cold,” “Punchin’ Bag,” and “Portuguese Knife Fight.”


Cage The Elephant
‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’
© December 18th, 2015


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