REVIEW: Cage the Elephant’s “Tell Me I’m Pretty” doesn’t “Mess Around”

Tell Me I'm Pretty
“Tell Me I’m Pretty” is Cage the Elephant’s fourth album. (Courtesy photo:

By Laura Bock, Editor—

Kentucky rock band Cage the Elephant is back with a new album, “Tell Me I’m Pretty.” The band, of “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” fame, now has four albums, with “Thank You, Happy Birthday” and “Melophobia” preceding the newest.

With Dan Auerbach of the band The Black Keys replacing Jay Joyce as producer, “Tell Me I’m Pretty” has a calm yet melancholy sound; a definite difference from their more manic-sounding first two albums. Despite this, lead singer Matthew Schultz’s distinctive vocals ensure that listeners will still recognize the band.

1. Cry Baby
This song opens with a strong bassline reminiscent of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky,” and it soon becomes clear that the music is the real star of the song, with Schultz’s voice softer than usual. The chorus is strong, and will no doubt be great to sing along to live. The song is a mix of both old and new Cage the Elephant, and is a great introduction to the album.

2. Mess Around
The first single released is very clearly influenced by Auerbach’s The Black Keys, which is not a bad thing, and Schultz’s voice still shines through. The song is very catchy and upbeat, and is probably the most radio-friendly selection off the album.

3. Sweetie Little Jean
The album takes a sadder turn with this song, which lyrically centers around a missing girl. The piano creates a driving tempo underneath Schultz’s sorrowful vocals that slow down and speed up several times. This song has to be one of my favorites off the album, with lyrics that seem to creep into your soul, including the repeated question “How does it feel to be a ghost?”

4. Too Late to Say Goodbye
The album slows down with the third single released. It has a much more sinister sound, and the chorus will send shivers down your spine as Schultz repeats over and over that it’s “too late to say goodbye.” Although it’s good, I would still have to say that it’s my least favorite song off of “Tell Me I’m Pretty.”

5. Cold Cold Cold
Just like the previous song, this is another slow one. Strong bass, guitar and tambourine take the forefront as the song progresses, and the chorus is extremely catchy, despite its sad lyrics. This is another one of my favorites.

6. Trouble
Opening with the familiar dreamy sound akin to the song “Telescope” from previous album “Melophobia,” “Trouble” seems to act as a throwback to past Cage the Elephant songs. As another reference, the lyrics also contain the line “you know what they say, the wicked have no rest.” Schultz sounds extremely melancholy as he sings, but it only adds to how good the song is. This is hands-down my favorite from the album.

7. How Are You True
The lonely sounds guitar and vocals begin this song with a sad tone, with percussion eventually being added in. This is another blue, slow song with a dreamy sound to it, and fits right in with the rest of the album.

8. That’s Right
The tempo finally ramps back up again with the eighth song on the album, with tambourine being reintroduced. The chorus is strong, but despite that, I find the song fairly forgettable.

9. Punchin’ Bag
The upbeat tempo continues into this song, which contains very empowering lyrics, including the repeated chorus of “I’m not your punchin’ bag.” This will likely be amazing to sing along to during one of their concerts.

10. Portuguese Knife Fight
Unlike previous albums, “Tell Me I’m Pretty” ends on an upbeat note, with familiar guitar riffs reminiscent of “It’s Just Forever,” also off “Melophobia.” Unlike the overall sad sound of the album, this song is more angry sounding, but is just as strong as the others. I think that this is an excellent way to wrap up the album.

Overall, I think “Tell Me I’m Pretty” is a very strong album, with its slower, more blues-y tunes taking the forefront and introducing a new version of the band. Although “Melophobia” remains my overall favorite Cage the Elephant album, I would still highly recommend “Tell Me I’m Pretty” to people who are looking for an alternative to the music being played on the radio.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *