Throwback Thursday: Cage The Elephant Albums Ranked

by Sebastian Lee // Sebass

This post originally ran February 11, 2020

6. Thank You Happy Birthday

Starting out the list at the bottom is Cage the Elephant’s second album, Thank You Happy Birthday. Putting this album so low actually feels very wrong to me. My two favorite Cage the Elephant songs, “Aberdeen” and “Shake Me Down,” are both found on this album. Despite that, this album is the perfect example of the “Sophomore Slump.” The album is incredibly disjointed, going back and forth between wanting to be the angry garage rock from Cage the Elephant and wanting to be the more alternative and indie sounds that would become essential in Melophobia. Songs like “Indy Kidz” and “Sell yourself” have Matt Shultz yelling and overall sounding angrier than he did on their previous release. The former also goes on for far too long with a total runtime of five minutes. While “Aberdeen,” “Shake me Down” and “Right Before my Eyes” showed promise for the future of the band, a lot of the other tracks just fall very short.

Favorite Track: Shake me Down

5. Cage the Elephant

Next on the list is the self-titled debut album, Cage the Elephant. Honestly, I don’t have strong opinions either way about this album. I think the album is certainly enjoyable and I really like the garage rock on it. However, the garage rock sound that Cage the Elephant started with is very different from the sound that they are associated with now. Obviously, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” is the song that put Cage on the map and deserves to be mentioned for how awesome it is. Other songs like “Back Against the Wall” and “In One Ear” are absolute gems of this era of Cage the Elephant. While the rest are the songs aren’t bad, none of them really stand out as much as those three.

Favorite Track: Back Against the Wall

 4. Social Cues

Cage the Elephant’s most recent release, Social Cues, is their moodiest album. Written during a time where Shultz not only lost a few friends, but also his marriage, Social Cues can be very dramatic at times. I really like this album, but it’s clear that it doesn’t hold up as well as the albums higher on this list. I’d certainly say the first half of the album is the stronger half. Songs like “Black Madonna,” “Social Cues” and “Ready to Let Go” are without a doubt the high points of the album. The second half is a lot less memorable with the only stand out track being “Dance Dance.” The album is post Melophobia, so it feels much more indie than the previous two albums on the list. However, with the moody feel of the album it at times feels like a mix of old Cage the Elephant sounds with new Cage the Elephant sounds.

Favorite Track: Social Cues

3. Melophobia

I realize that not having Melophobia as the number one spot is a very hot take. With that being said, Melophobia, Cage the Elephant’s third album, is the album that most people associate with Cage the Elephant. The album gave us “Cigarette Daydreams,” “Telescope” and “Come a little Closer.” With the introduction of a more psych sound, Melophobia is the first Cage the Elephant album that evolved their sound. If you compare “Telescope” to “In One Ear,” they could almost be from completely different bands. On the whole, Melophobia is a spectacular album, but it does have some faults. “It’s Just Forever ” is very bland and with it being the only song to feature another artist doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the album. “Teeth” is a track that could have been put on Thank You Happy Birthday due to its similarities with “Indy Kidz.” Similarities such as, it’s five and half minute run time, with the last half being spoken word with jumbled music accompanying it. However, all things considered those are just minor faults on the overall wonderful album.

Favorite Track: Take it or Leave it

2. Tell me I’m Pretty

As the first album to be released after Melophobia, Tell me I’m Pretty had a lot to live up to. In my opinion, this album even surpassed the former. Out of all the Cage the Elephant studio albums, Tell me I’m Pretty is the only one to not have a single bad song. It’s clear the songs are influenced by the success of their previous release, but it isn’t fair to say they sound like leftovers. Tell me I’m Pretty is heavily inspired by 60s rock and folk. You can best hear these influences in “Trouble” and “Cold Cold Cold.” Apple Music describes the album as “mixing Stooges-level sleaze with Beatles-level poise.” Another notable aspect of Tell me I’m Pretty is the more introspective lyrics. Tell me I’m Pretty is more personal with songs about domestic violence, missing people and depression. Maybe it’s because I grew up listening to classic rock, but I think Cage the Elephant blew any other studio release out of the water with the sound of Tell me I’m Pretty.

Favorite Track: Cold Cold Cold

1.  Unpeeled

Is it a cheat to put their live album as number 1? Yes. Does it matter? No. The album is essentially a compilation of all their best songs up to the point of Tell me I’m Pretty; however, the songs are each performed very differently from their original recordings. Songs like “Trouble” and “Too Late for Goodbyes” have been reimagined in folky swagger, through use of strings. Violins are thrown into songs like ”Spiderhead” or acoustic guitars in “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” These new vibes elevate the album from live compilation to new experience. It should also be noted that Unpeeled features songs that are not on other albums: “Whole Wide World,” “Instant Crush” and “Golden Brown.” Having new songs on the album also makes Unpeeled a unique experience. If you told me I could only listen to one Cage the Elephant album for the rest of my life I would say Unpeeled with no hesitation.

Favorite Track: Whole Wide World