social cues

Cage the Elephant - Social Cues | Album Review

Anika In't Hout Thu Sep 19th

The Kentucky-born, Grammy-award winning modern alt-rock band, Cage the Elephant, is back again with their fifth album, Social Cues, released back in April of this year. The album took inspiration from the painful experiences that have recently happened in the band’s personal lives including deaths of friends as well as the lead singer’s divorce from his wife. I first came across this album after listening to Cage the Elephant’s popular song, “Ready to Let Go,” I knew that I wanted to hear the rest of the album. So while many critics argue that this album is safer and tamer compared to the band’s previous albums, I actually rather enjoy this album as it has a variety of funky head-banging songs that tell a story about the grieving process through their lyrics.  


What I Liked About the Album

I love how Cage the Elephant’s fifth album has so many unique and upbeat songs that are so easy to dance to, like the funky/punk-rock album opener, “Broken Boy,” and the track “Night Running.” Even though many critics argue that some of Cage the Elephant’s songs are too repetitive and safe, I actually really liked them because I am someone who prefers mainstream alt-rock and alt-pop music compared to more experimental and eclectic music. 


Another thing I admired about this album was how each song told a different story about the grieving process through its lyrics. Although I have never experienced extreme loss or heartbreak before, I could empathize with the band’s grief as they showed depression, anger, acceptance and even joy in their song lyrics. For example, the songs "Skin and Bones" and "What I’m Becoming" have powerful lines about the sadness and misery that accompanies grief: “I've been running for so long / All that's left is skin and bones / Close my eyes and fight to carry on” and “I'm so sorry, honey, for what I'm becoming / Everything you wanted seems so far from me / Never meant to hurt you, no, never meant to make you cry.” On the other hand, songs like “Ready to Let Go” and “Goodbye” have a more conclusive and uplifting outlook with lyrics like: “I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready to let go / Don't you worry, baby, no sense trying to change it” and “I wish you well, I want to see you smile / It's alright, goodbye / Goodbye.” 


What I Disliked About the Album

While I do enjoy this album, I did not like songs like “Black Madonna,” “House of Glass,” and “Tokyo Smoke” as I found that they were very aggressive and hostile with punk rock undertones. Even though I did not like these three songs as I thought they were too bitter and heated, I can still appreciate them as I realize that anger and frustration is a part of the grieving process. With lyrics like “The house is glass / It's an illusion, this admiration / Of mutilation, my isolation” from “House and Glass,” it is clear that the band’s leader singer, Matt Shultz, was in a dark place when he was going through his divorce and he was isolating himself from the world. 


Final Thoughts

Overall, I think Social Cues is a great album with upbeat songs with heartbreaking lyrics. In an interview with National Public Radio, Cage the Elephant explained that the message they want to convey with their new music is the idea that people should reject feeling bad or guilty about grieving and should stop obsessing over social cues (hence the name of the album). 

I think the idea that people shouldn't feel guilty or ashamed about grieving is great messaging and I hope this album provides people who are grieving with some sort of comfort in understanding that grief is a process, and it is okay to feel however you want to feel. Therefore, my final score for this album is...