Cage The Elephant - Social Cues - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Cage The Elephant - Social Cues

by Mark Moody Rating:4 Release Date:2019-04-19
Cage The Elephant - Social Cues
Cage The Elephant - Social Cues

Mercifully the last song on Cage The Elephant’s fifth studio album, Social Cues, is called ‘Goodbye’ and as hoped for it’s the last song on the band’s foray into full-blown arena rock territory.  When the producer, engineer, and mixer are all named in the press release it’s fair warning.  Fair warning that what you are about to experience is over-produced, over-engineered, and over-mixed (if that’s a thing).  In the battle for technical dominance over the band anything remotely Cage The Elephant-y about these songs is lost somewhere deep in the mix.  Don’t come here looking for the next wistfully perfect tune like ‘Cigarette Daydreams’.  Even a harder-edged classic like ‘In One Ear’ has little in common with the dialed up bombastics of what’s on display on Social Cues

There are a couple of diamonds buried in the rough here, but they are few and far between.  The hooky chorus of breakup song ‘Ready To Let Go’ manages to crawl out from the ashes of its Pompeii themed setting.  A few of the earlier songs like ‘Skin and Bones’ would probably emerge better in a stripped down setting like on 2017’s live album Unpeeled and ‘Black Madonna’ has a Raconteurs’ vibe going for it.  For one of the best live touring bands out there, maybe a few of these songs can be salvaged on stage.  If you had to pick the best track, the wavery ‘Ashes to Ashes’ sound of the title song makes it the standout track.  Its chorus of “hide me in the backroom, tell me when it’s over” makes for a good strategy over the rest of the album.

The industrial machinations of the opening ‘Broken Boy’ are met with the sped up melody of ‘Turning Japanese’.  If you hadn’t read the liner notes, there’s no way to pick Matt Schultz’ voice out of the wreckage.  And speaking of Japanese, the penultimate track ‘Tokyo Smoke’ has a mildly offensive ‘Chopsticks’ type thing going on.  Maybe funny back in the days of Hong Kong Phooey, but it just comes off as juvenile here. 

Guest artist Beck gets pulled through the mire on the faux-reggae ‘Night Running’ that somehow ended up a single.  Sounds like one the beach dads could play a little paddleball to while working down a case of diet hard seltzer.  After several listens, not much else here is of note, but things probably hit their lowest mark at the generically titled and sounding ‘Dance, Dance’ though you probably could in fact dance to it. 

It looks like Cage The Elephant are headed the big sound headliner way of bands like The Killers.  Social Cues does go down easier than what The Killers last offered up, but that’s not saying much. It’s sad to see the change in course for a band that was always good for more than a handful of rightfully retro songs each outing, but maybe this is how you survive and thrive in the current musical economy.  Hard to fault the grab for the brass ring, more Grammys, and football fields full of screaming fans, but in isolation, Social Cues is a soul-sucking change in direction.


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“Hide me in the back room, tell me when it’s over” ‘makes for good strategy for the rest of the album’. Love it. Doesn’t get much more succinct than that, lol.

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