Cage the Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty: Throwing sounds at the wall to see what sticks

Tell Me I'm Pretty
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Artist: Cage the Elephant
Genre: Alternative
Label: RCA

Four years ago, Cage the Elephant were just another American alt-rock band who had made a surprisingly excellent yet overlooked second album called Thank You, Happy Birthday. The Kentucky band's fortunes have turned since then – with their last record, Melophobia, earning them a Grammy nomination earlier this year – and their star is ascending, though perhaps not yet to its full luminosity on this side of the Atlantic.

Now they're bringing in the big guns. Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys is on production for album number four, which was reportedly influenced by David Bowie – though Auerbach's fingerprints are all over these 10 tracks. The grimy bass buzz of Cry Baby, Trouble and Portuguese Knife Fight are particularly reminiscent of Black Keys songs su ch as Gold on the Ceiling. In other places, the band – Matt Shultz and brother Brad (right), Jared Champion, Daniel Tichenor and Nick Bockrath – plough headlong into the psych-garage style more recently practiced by the likes of Tame Impala, as heard on Cold Cold Cold and on the neat twitch of Mess Around.

On the other hand, Punchin' Bag – which documents a tale of domestic abuse – has the classic rock swagger that The Rolling Stones made their own in the 1960s. As such, it sounds slightly more pastiche than homage, although the finger-clicking 1950s rock'n'roll of That's Right is done well, as is the Kinks-esque Sweetie Little Jean.

While it may sound like Tell Me I'm Pretty is an all-encompassing modern rock album, the truth is that Cage the Elephant have simply thrown a lot of sounds at the proverbial wall to see what sticks. More often than not, their efforts slide into forgettable territory, but there are plenty of fleeting pleasures here too.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times