Cage the Elephant’s newest release, “Thank You Happy Birthday,” follows up its self-titled debut album, which garnered a lot of hype for the Kentucky-bred band. The in-your-face lyrics and ridiculous amount of energy on stage made the band stand out in a time of overwhelming indie apathy.
“Thank You Happy Birthday” opens with the track “Always Something,” using a distorted Beck-inspired drum and synthesizer introduction. The band draws influence from many artists throughout the album.
Call me loopy, but, “At the Drive-In” creeps into a few songs on the new album. “Sabertooth Tiger” and “Sell Yourself” contain mixtures of the “freak-out” styles of ATDI, Beck, Ex Models and Arctic Monkeys. But the combinations are done in such a way that they end up as the band’s own sound.
Since its debut, critics have said Cage the Elephant is America’s answer to the UK’s Arctic Monkeys, with a southern drawl and twangy guitar riffs, but with a similar youth-inspired hostility. “Thank You Happy Birthday” lightens up on the unchecked hostility, even turning somewhat remorseful in the albums’s more peaceful songs like “Rubber Ball” and “Flow,” but there’s still plenty of aggression to go around.
“I want to be just like you,” spoken in an obnoxious whine, opens the facetious song, “Indy Kidz.” This track reinforces the notion that to truly be considered an indie band you must write a song about being indie (“Indie Rock And Roll” by The Killers, “Gimme Indie Rock” by Sebadoh, etc). Whether it’s cool or ironic to make fun of your own genre, it does make for an annoying song.
“Shake Me Down,” the album’s first single, quickly relieves the discomfort caused by “Indy Kidz.” The song is catchy and bittersweet with the power to uplift, “even on a cloudy day” — or a snowy one.