Cage The Elephant Processes Grief With 'Social Cues'
Two years after winning the Grammy for best rock album, Cage the Elephant is back with its fifth studio album, Social Cues, out now. But since the band's last album, 2015's Tell Me I'm Pretty, there hasn't been much celebration. The band's members have experienced plenty of loss — from friends dying from overdoses to divorce. Those changes made it into the music of this latest album.
"I mean we went through an extremely rough point where we lost my my wife's father, we lost our cousin. We've lost several friends," guitarist Brad Shultz says. "I think that subconsciously affects everything about you and, for some reason, led us down the road to even what kind of instrumentation that we put into the songs."
The effects on instrumentation are apparent on songs like "Tokyo Smoke," which has an air of bizarre darkness. "It's not like a sadness, but it's more of almost like this frustrated angry," lead singer Matt Shultz explains.
Loss comes across in many different colors on Social Cues. The album's end track, "Goodbye," for example, expresses grief in an entirely different way from most other songs on the 13-track album. "One thing that stood out to me is that the presence of joy within sadness and grief," Matt says. "There's the many different shifts within the grieving process as well."
The message of this new music, the brothers say, is to reject feeling guilty about grief or obsessing over social cues.
"I think many people walk around with a sense of guilt just for existing," Matt says. "The reality of life is we're on a planet within a solar system that is traveling so many miles per hour around a massive ball of gas and here life is. So our mere existence is validation."
Brad and Matt spoke with NPR's Ari Shapiro about leaning on each other for support, releasing music while still grieving, creating characters to personify their grief and more. Hear their conversation at the audio link.
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