Not Just Messin’ Around… or Cage The Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty

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It’s an interesting time to be Cage The Elephant. They could stick to their tried and true sound that has produced a number of alt-rock staples, or venture out to try something a little different. The risk for every artist is alienating old crowds while searching for new fans and retaining that wonderful feeling of loving what you do.

For inspiration, they have looked to the other side of the Atlantic and picked up influences ranging from the Beatles (“Sweetie Little Jean”) to Super Furry Animals (“Cry Baby”) and the Arctic Monkeys (“Mess Around”). To top that, they’ve got the ear of Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach at the controls, giving them sounds that ride sonic rhythms rather than relying on straight up indie-rock guitar. The result is a weird hybrid that welds together various pieces in some metaphoric ‘found object’ art instillation that is both strange yet incredibly accessible.

The old over-the-top swagger is exchanged for one of emphasis in the right places. It used to be that vocalist Matt Shultz would put out little vocal improvisations at a rate that would put James Brown to shame, but it seems Auerbach may have reined him in, allowing whole songs to catch the imagination. “Cold, Cold, Cold” is a perfect example; it’s a tune that has psychedelic flourishes that would be undermined by such displays. Instead, the fuzzed out guitar, classic 60’s style rhythm and haunting organ are allowed to drive home the mood.

Next you get a story of abuse set to a background of early rock ‘n’ roll sounds. “Punchin’ Bag” at its surface is a tale of someone who has ‘had enough’, but its musical tone conjures images created by the Sonics’ 1965 song “Strychnine” and its aggressive sinister sound.

Tell Me I’m Pretty is not content to be ‘just another’ alt-rock record to be quickly digested and tossed aside in a few months when the next ‘flavour’ arrives on shelves. It seeks to be a record that you keep coming back to; new sounds emerging on every subsequent listen; the kind of album that lives on in your consciousness and becomes a favourite.

“Rock Star” not “Pop Star” or Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

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Outside of Courtney Barnett, no one has received the tremendous pre-release expectations that Wolf Alice has with the lead up to My Love Is Cool. Dropping new singles every few weeks has helped to build momentum and gather fan support for the album. The result is that Wolf Alice is seeing print in almost every music mag and newspaper for today’s release… but does it hold up?

Well actually, it doesn’t disappoint.

Built around strong guitar work and soaring vocals, Wolf Alice bridges the gap between the 90’s alt-rock revival and the more modern Brit-Rock led by the Arctic Monkeys and their recent disciples Royal Blood. Subtle whispers turn to moments of shoegaze before exploding into an all out “throw your hair around and play air guitar” press as “Giant Peach” blasts out.

“Bros” starts with a Juliana Hatfield Three rhythm before going all “1979” Smashing Pumpkins as if Tanya Donnelly (Belly) was singing. The thing is, Wolf Alice isn’t playing at nostalgia but instead inhabits a space that fits in well with the narrative of ‘rock star’ rather than the dreaded ‘pop star’. When “You’re A Germ” lets the slow verse flare into the heavy chorus of screams and thundering guitar, the impression is that these guys play music that makes them want to ‘rock out’ along with their listeners. Just when you think you’ve pegged their sound, “Your Love’s Whore” throws in a groove that flies into Soundgarden mixed with a Dandy Warhols’ feel. Then you get “The Wonderwhy” which drones on with a buzz that is simultaneously terrifying and mesmerizing.

My Love Is Cool on first listen might sound very 1994, but with each subsequent spin you discover new reasons to forget the past and enjoy the moment. For Wolf Alice, that moment is now and be prepared, you’re going to be hearing a lot more from them.

My Love Is Cool is released on June 23.