Grammy-award winning Cage the Elephant released their fifth studio album “Social Cues” on April 19, following a tumultuous time in the life of frontman Matt Shultz.
The singer went through a divorce and lost two friends to suicide, and instead of becoming consumed in grief, Shultz chose to channel into the album the emotions that would otherwise be overlooked during such a hard time.
The album opens with “Broken Boy,” an apropos title considering the album’s circumstances, and delves into the feeling like you don’t fit in with the people around you. It includes lyrics like, “I was born on the wrong side of the train tracks / Always born on the wrong side of the train tracks” and “Tell me why I'm forced to live in this skin.”
Next is “Social Cues,” which tackles the “live fast, die young” mentality of being a renowned artist but burning out in the process of immortalizing yourself. The lyrics also tackle how Shultz deals with fleeting fame: “I don't know if it is right to live this way, yeah / I'll be in the back room, tell me when it's over / People always say, ‘Man, at least you're on the radio.’”
Cage the Elephant also collaborated with Beck on “Social Cues,” and they will be co-headlining a tour this summer.
Beck is featured on the fourth song “Night Running,” which has a funky bass line and a very distinctive sound.
The lead single, “Ready to Let Go,” sounds like something from a Black Keys album; aside from that the song delves into Shultz’s personal struggles.
In an interview with Forbes, Shultz detailed how he maintains Cage the Elephant’s sound and vibe: “I think it's really important to be around a community and around people who keep you humble. Being humbled is one of the quickest ways to reignite the fun and excitement with music.”
“House of Glass” is an angsty song about life taking a turn for the worse, and the lyrics reflect that with no sparing of detail of monotony and pain: “Climb into my corner, my self-inflicted coma / Stand up, lay down, repeat in the same order,” and, “It's an illusion, this admiration / Of mutilation, my isolation.”
Unfortunately, the song falls a little flat and the angsty chords get old within a minute of listening to the track.
“Love’s the Only Way” immediately follows with a softer sound, almost acoustic, and it’s jarring to go from one end of sound to another.
With “The War is Over,” Cage the Elephant regains the sound it produced earlier in the album, and its groove.
One theme that keeps reappearing in the album is a lack of a cohesive sound, but it’s not nearly as jarring as other albums that haven’t figured out what they want to produce.
“I love albums, but the diversity of the material you're listening to … you're thinking, ‘What is the common fiber that unties this music?’ It seems like it's so far apart, but works together so seamlessly in transitioning,” Shultz continued with Forbes.
The album ends on what one would think is a sorrowful note, but Shultz considers it an uplifting song, making peace with the end, “I wish you well, I want to see you smile / It's alright, goodbye.”
“Social Cues” has some good songs, but is a bit too disjointed in its sound to be an enjoyable listen the whole way through.