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Review: Cage the Elephant's 'Melophobia'<i> </i>makes you want to come closer

When I saw Cage the Elephant at the Next Big Thing two years ago, I knew after half a song they were a new favorite. Their energy was unmatched, and frontman Matt Shultz had a classic yet refreshing rock 'n' roll swagger. An unexpected conversation with Shultz backstage after the show, joking about how his crowd-walk technique made him look like a cheerleader, confirmed that this wasn't just some insipid look-alike band.

After reading about them for the past couple of years, all people have done is compare them to other bands. Being associated with bands such as Nirvana, Pixies and the Velvet Underground is by no means a bad thing, but at some point the comparisons just became monotonous. This band is bringing back to life what made those bands classics — but in its own way.

Come a Little Closer, the first single off the third album, Melophobia (swanky word for the fear of music), made me want to do just what the title says. The seductive guitar riff at the beginning reeled me back to Shultz's syrupy rasp-filled wonderland. It rose and fell like a wave starting to grow as soon as it breaks.

Melophobia is less sporadic than the second album. It doesn't jump from hard pop punk to acoustic ballads because the range is smaller. Each song feels more conscious of the next and closer in style. Melophobia, also unlike the band's previous albums, incorporates new layering with horns, piano and strings. The new instrumentals bring depth and sophistication to the sound, without being too different from what we all know and love.

Cage the Elephant is growing up, and doing so with grungy grace. The new album may not house mainstream potential hits like Ain't No Rest for the Wicked or Shake Me Down, but it's the source of truly enjoyable and quirky rock songs — songs that make new and old fans feel as if they need to come a little closer to see what Cage the Elephant is becoming.