Social Cues

Social Cues

On Social Cues, Matt Shultz tries to make sense of a tumultuous time in his life. The Cage the Elephant frontman not only went through a divorce but also lost two of his best friends to suicide during the recording of the band's fifth full-length album. But rather than dwell on his tragic circumstances, Shultz focused on the positives that tend to get dismissed during periods of personal turmoil. “I think there’s the temptation, when you’re going through a tough time, to get stuck in the melodrama of things and be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to write a sad song and it’s just going to explain exactly where I’m at,'” Shultz said in an interview with Beats 1. “You miss out on other notes and colors of life that are so important.” Cage the Elephant is no stranger to challenging the current rock landscape—their offbeat, genre-hopping approach culminated in the psychedelic-meets-glam rock of 2015’s Tell Me I’m Pretty (which earned them a Best Rock Album Grammy in 2017). Likewise, on Social Cues, they navigate through different periods of rock history alongside a spooky ambient mood inspired by the horror movie soundtracks of John Carpenter. In “House of Glass,” Shultz combats his paranoid thoughts over visceral garage punk, while on the flip side, the strings-laced “Love’s the Only Way” is a tender ballad where he reflects on his mistakes. He juxtaposes these melancholic sentiments with swagger, exhibiting showmanship over synth-driven grooves (“Skin and Bones”) and stomping blues rock (“The War Is Over).” Thanks to the savvy intuition of his brother, Cage guitarist Brad Shultz—and unbeknownst to anyone else in the band—the reggae-rap fusion of “Night Running” got some help from Beck: “One morning, I receive a text message that says, 'Here’s a couple of verses that Beck put down.' And I said, 'Huh?' He was like, ‘I have five other options in case these don’t work for you.' And we’re like, ‘No, this is good!'” “Goodbye” sends off Social Cues on a solemn note. It’s the rare moment when Shultz puts himself front and center, accepting that it’s time for a relationship to come to an end. “I actually see it as an uplifting song,” he said, “but I find it really interesting that sometimes when we’re confronted with such profound truth we interpret it as darkness. I think the most obvious challenge is trying to find something within the music that reignites that excitement, that passion, that excitement for music again.”

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