Cage The Elephant’s ‘Neon Pill’ danced to soft rock angst

“Neon Pill” album cover

Kentucky indie rock band Cage The Elephant released their sixth studio album, “Neon Pill,” on May 17, 2024. This follows 2019’s “Social Cues” to close a disconcertingly long five year gap between albums, the longest the band has ever seen. These five years have seen several disruptions to the band, namely the tribulations of their frontman Matt Shultz involving an arrest and mental health issues discussed at length in an NPR interview.

“Neon Pill” is easily the band’s softest release, with little of the crunch from their debut album or 2011’s “Thank You, Happy Birthday.” This tonal shift swings past their later efforts, with the track “Ball and Chain” being the only funky avocado to keep up with the desert rock that put the band on the map.

The softer vibes are nice, but they feel generic coming a decade after the release of “Cigarette Daydreams” and the sea of copycats that flowed from its success. The album never gets its feet wet with anything truly unique. Compared to Vampire Weekend’s “Only God Was Above Us” or MGMT’s “Loss Of Life,” “Neon Pill” feels like a lightly scratched Kidz Bop CD skipping in a beige minivan. A suburban effort of mediocrity and indie-by-association, no true experimentation has occurred here.

I’m of two minds about this album. On the one hand, it is competently produced and has every hallmark of a soulful indie rock album. On the other hand, I despise it for its lack of any particularly ear catching tunes or memorable phrasing of the psychedelic playbook. It just doesn’t light my fire.

Not to discount the enjoyment that can be gained from this album, it goes great as a space filler. I haven’t had as strong time dilation from an album while driving since a fateful drive involving sleep deprivation and a cassette of Bob Seger’s greatest hits. At 38 minutes though, it might be limited to smaller trips.

Give this album a run through, it is worth your time as some easy listening sunshine. I just can’t recommend it as a critical listening experience to be picked apart and savored.

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