Flashback to the year 2004: the channel is Nickelodeon, the show is The Fairly OddParents. Timmy Turner and Trixie Tang are the last two intelligent creatures left on Earth. Deprived of the constant ego-boosters supplied by her swarm of suitors, Trixie cracks and begins to demand the famous “Tell me I’m pretty.” Whether or not this is a good or bad thing to be associated with a cartoon series, it is hopefully the inspiration behind the name of Cage the Elephant‘s fourth studio album Tell Me I’m Pretty.
The five rockers from Kentucky are joined by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys taking up the reins of producer: this collaboration melds together Auerbach’s blues influences with Cage’s uniquely flexible sound to create a cool breeze of dulcet tones and eloquence. The partnership is projected gracefully in the album’s lead single “Mess Around,” which with its simplistic instrumentals and chorus covered in vocal formants could possibly be mistaken for a Black Keys B-side.
Traveling down a more mellow path than previous releases, Pretty goes on to further explore the sentimental side of frontman Matt Shultz, as seen in “Too Late To Say Goodbye” with the lines “After all the dust has settled we can settle down/ Just the two of us forever no one else around.” Sliding guitars wallow in melancholy alongside the invariable drum rhythm that dips into tedium. Nevertheless, Shultz will be able to continue with his traditional over-energized stage performance on tracks such as “Cry Baby” and “Portuguese Knife Fight.”
Not often is a Cage the Elephant song compared to an indie pop ballad, but the guitar progressions of “Cold Cold Cold” show an amusing resemblance to Gotye‘s 2011 only hit “Somebody That I Used to Know.” While the aforementioned track works well as it treads on the lighter side, some pieces like “Punchin Bag” feel constrained with this approach. With the ability to be a crowd moving ball of fire, the toned down vocals and lackluster instrumentals seem to be a waste of potential.
Though overall a good release, Tell Me I’m Pretty fails to stack up to its predecessors in terms of replay value: however, revisits to “Sweetie Little Jean” and “How Are You True” are all but required. The electricity generated from the past three albums is beginning to change its form, and its still quite pretty.