by The Cowl Editor on May 2, 2019
by Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
Cage the Elephant, most commonly recognized for their 2009 hit, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” is one of the most prolific, household names in rock music today. Two years after winning a Grammy for Best Rock Album, the band released its highly anticipated fifth studio album on April 19, entitled Social Cues. Its debut comes in a timely fashion, as the band prepares for a headlining tour with Beck, who is also featured in one of the new songs.
Cage the Elephant is no stranger in the industry. Considering the band’s status in the indie-alternative sphere today, the expectations of anything that the group puts out are exponentially high. It is evident that the band has evolved over time as many bands do, but they have done so in such a way that still enables them to stand out. Social Cues takes on a very personal tone, with several pieces highlighting some of the deepest struggles plaguing lead vocalist, Matt Shultz. The record touches upon divorce, loss, and fame, among other themes. The opening track, “Broken Boy,” sets this tone and alludes to what is to come.
Shultz’s divorce has been at the forefront of the discussion on Social Cues and Cage deliberately exposes this in “Ready to Let Go.” It was released as a single prior to the album’s full debut and skyrocketed to the top of the alternative charts for weeks. Shultz said in an interview with Billboard, “I’ve been asked quite often if it’s a dark song, or was it a hard song to write, or was the record hard to write. I actually see a deep brightness within it. There’s a saying, ‘bright sadness,’ and with hope or any kind of release there’s an undercurrent of grief, but that’s a part of joy.”
Ironically enough, the blatant juxtaposition between grief and joy is inherent in Social Cues. Holding steadfast to these intense topics, Cage also alludes to dealing with loss. Not only does this add to the personal nature of the record’s lyrics, but it also reveals the universality behind this message, whereby one can experience loss in a literal sense, as well as through the end of a relationship.
In addition to dealing with the complexities of a divorce, Shultz and his brother, Brad, who is also a member of Cage, have lost several family members and friends. This too is reflected in Social Cues. This concept extends further, even going so far as to relay the brothers’ motivations behind choosing to name the record Social Cues. Ari Shapiro of NPR says, “The message of this new music, the brothers say, is to reject feeling guilty about grief or obsessing over social cues.”
Cage the Elephant certainly takes risks on Social Cues, but at their core, the band has stayed true to what they want to present to their audience, making music that is personal and indicative of the members’ real experiences.