The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: Cage The Elephant – ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ (RCA)

Front cover of 'Tell Me I'm Pretty'

Front cover of ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’

by John Tindale

Tell Me I’m Pretty, the fourth album release by Kentucky alt-rockers Cage The Elephant sees the band at a lull in their career. After their initial success with hits ‘Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked’ and ‘Shake Me Down’, the band now face the task of living up to the hype they had four years ago. Unfortunately, what they’ve come up with only serves as a reminder as why they can’t. It will come as no surprise to anyone who listens to this album that it is produced by Black Keys frontman, Dan Auerbach; Tell Me I’m Pretty sounds like it could be that duo’s next album and it is this complete lack of original ideas which results in the album falling flat on its face.

There is a certain pop sensibility to album opener ‘Cry Baby’, with catchy guitars and a renewed confidence in the vocal of Matt Shultz the album seems promising – that is until the Auerbach influence comes into play on ‘Mess Around’; the vocals, the backing vocals, guitars, drums… every element sounds like a Black Keys single (and not a good one). Even when the sound veers away from that, it is unoriginal; ‘Too Late To Say Goodbye’ is a hybrid of AM-era Arctic Monkeys and The Neighbourhood. The lyric “too late to say goodbye” feels ironic as the band has already overstayed its welcome.

However, that’s not to say the whole album is without ideas, the lovely guitar riff to end ‘Cold Cold Cold’ gives the album a new lease of life mid-way through, before the excellent shoe-gaze meets alt-rock ‘Trouble’ provides the album highlight. ‘How Are You True’, although serving as the customary acoustic track of the record, works, with the hushed vocals of Shultz. But this eight-minute run does not save the album – it doesn’t come close. CTE still finds time to revert back to the Auerbach style of guitars, before providing a curveball on closer ‘Portuguese Knife Fight’ as they plunder Kasabian for ideas.

Tell Me I’m Pretty is an album which fails due to having an over-reliance on its very obvious influences and in doing so explains just why Cage The Elephant didn’t cross over into the mainstream in the early ‘10s. It’s a shame because at times it is apparent that there is a knack for writing excellent pop tunes, but an album with no originality will never succeed. (3/10)

Listen to Tell Me I’m Pretty here, and tell us what you think below!

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