Cage the Elephant’s new album 'Neon Pill' is an impressive return - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Last Friday, Cage the Elephant released Neon Pill, their first album in five years (not counting their 2023 expanded edition of Thank You Happy Birthday). Twelve songs bring the album to just under 40 minutes, and although a departure from their 2019 album Social Cues, the album holds a sense of belonging and growth, a product of the band’s tumultuous past five years.

“With this album, having gone through so much, life had almost forced us into becoming more and more comfortable with ourselves. We weren’t reaching for much outside of the pure experience of self-expression, and simultaneously not necessarily settling either. We just found a uniqueness in simply existing,” says lead singer Matt Shultz in a press statement.

In January 2023, Shultz was arrested and charged with criminal possession of firearms after police found guns inside his hotel room – a culmination of a psychotic episode brought on by a prescribed medication he was taking. After a period of hospitalization, Shultz reflects on his mental health journey throughout the album.

In particular, the chorus of the title track “Neon Pill,” alludes to Shultz’s troubles. “It’s a hit and run, oh no / Double-crossed by a neon pill / Like a loaded gun, my love / Double-crossed, crossed by a neon pill.” The song is certainly one of the most Cage the Elephant-sounding songs on the album. However, it is quickly overshadowed by other songs when listening to the entire album.

For example, “Out Loud,” is a complete shift from other tracks, taking on more of a ballad sound than the alt-rock sound that Cage the Elephant is known for. The song is a nod to Matt and Brad Shultz’s (the band’s guitarist) father. It’s based on an argument their father had with his father and offers a soft, tender reprieve in the middle of the album. The new sound may be a shock for fans, but it reflects the band’s maturity and further illustrates the healing journey behind the album. The last song on the album, “Over Your Shoulder,” connects to the Shultz brothers’ father who passed away during the pandemic. It’s not quite as soft as “Out Loud,” but it nevertheless provides a touching note to end the album on.

Another highlight on the album is “Rainbow,” an upbeat track with funky guitar riffs and catchy lyrics. It sounds as if the band has relaxed into themselves for this record, and while some songs can be compared to the sound of previous albums, there is something inherently refreshing about the album. It’s one of records that deserves an uninterrupted listen from start to finish.

Cage the Elephant (the Shultz brothers, along with Nick Bockrath on guitar, Daniel Tichenor on bass, Jared Champion on drums, and Matthan Minster on keyboard) will be embarking on a tour this summer, with a stop in Philadelphia at the Mann on September 6th. More information can be found at WXPN’s Concert Calendar.

Cage The Elephant - Neon Pill (Official Video)
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