An Open Letter To Cage The Elephant by Jess Gulbransson [Guest Wreckers]

Dear CTE,

I have no intention of starting any sort of flame war with your fans or yourselves, as I presume that you are all ordinarily intelligent people able to function in society. There is an element of subjectivity in any review, and in recognition of that I’m not going to throw a bunch of stylistic terms and critical references around. Well, not as a main point. Sometimes I can’t help myself. What I will provide is a personal plea.


Sounds, harsh, I understand, but I’m serious. Please listen. I first heard your band on the radio. Now, I’m not normally a radio listener. When I do listen it’s either to the classic rock station or the tejano/norteno station. My wife likes the alternative, though, so that station comes on a lot. What’s come with that is exposure to the Change The Elephant single “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” which, not to put too fine a point on it, is horrid.

Is the title of the song a biblical reference? An instance of a widespread cliche? Or cribbing from the earliest musical reference I can think of, the excellent Ozzy album?Given what I later discovered, I would guess a craptastic combination of all three. So what is this song that earns such ire?

Now, there is a history of preening self-indulgent bands attempting to be righteous and comment on social issues. Sometimes they pull it off, usually through subtlety and/or sincerity. Mostly it ends up feeling as fake as a Sunday morning megachurch rock hymn. Social Distortion seems to practically live this trope. So, Cage The Elephant, what possessed you to step into this trench already full of failure and skeletons? That it is wildly popular probably only reinforces the feeling that you wrote a really awesome song. “Yes, our shitty ripoff of the equally execrable G-Love and Special Sauce is a hit. We must write more songs like this!” That’s probably what you’re thinking, and is the biggest reason you must STOP PLAYING MUSIC.

I didn’t think that I could diss you like this without at least listening to some of your other songs, and as the wise men saith, It Got Worse. Instead of more soulless faux-funk in the vein of The White Stripes’ lesser material, your other tracks are the most shameless copies of Arctic Monkeys. What? How dare you! The song “Lotus” is the worst, being a complete and shoddy redo of “The View From The Afternoon.” Look, being derivative is fine. It happens all the time, and everyone is derivative of someone, to some respect. Just… don’t suck at it. The common advice is to write what you know. Arctic Monkeys seem to write mostly about English club kids being bored and doing stupid shit. That’s vapid material, potentially, but they breathe life into it, and the verisimilitude stomps all over any liabilities the source material may have. It’s not just about Alex Turner’s vocal style, it’s the gestalt of all sorts of elements. You’ve just thrown a bunch of shit at yourselves, hoping some will stick into a cohesive style. We’re not buying it. Well, actually a lot of us are. Your “tenth generation sub-standard Faces” schtick, as phrased by Chuck Ubaghs, is getting a lot of people excited. Well, the fucking Archies did that too. So why not take a page out of their comic book and


The next step in your success, whether you remain one-hit blunders or not, will be to have new bands, who are just fine sitting in their basement doing their Warsaw-esque noodling, jump up and say “THIS IS A HOT SOUND, WE NEED TO BE ALL IRONIC SOUTHERN ROCK AND SHIT.” Some critics are sitting back and waiting for you to disappear before your influence spreads, but I don’t want that pop culture blood on my hands. Now, Cage The Elephant, I could suggest to you that you might take a reasoned look at your oeuvre and how you got there, then making a sophomore effort that avoids such tripe. It’s too late, though. Like a virulent virus ‘bricking’ before the host dies, your “Wicked” single is going to bring you down eventually. With the aforementioned consequences on impressionable young bands.

Again, this may sound harsh, but I really think your band sucks, and I just have to be honest about it. I don’t think you’re bad people- just writing bad songs. Take that as what you will, and thanks for reading my little note. Good luck in your future endeavors as record store owners/fry cooks/business executives.


Jess Gulbranson

Jess Gulbranson is a novelist/journalist/musician currently residing in Portland, Oregon.  He isthe  author of bizzaro fiction novels 10 A BOOT STOMPING 20 A HUMAN FACE 30 GOTO 10, Mel, and Antipaladin Blues.  He is also 1/2 of the experimental folk band Couer Machant, which is featured on the Children of Mercy Compilation.  Jess also contributed to the book Children of Mercy: Tales and Teachings From The World of Independent Music in 2011.  He contributes regularly to the Portland based blog Crappy Indie Music!  The Blog! where this piece was originally published on on July 4th, 2009.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

One Response to An Open Letter To Cage The Elephant by Jess Gulbransson [Guest Wreckers]

  1. chad says:

    this is spot-on, i hate that band’s material and never once felt bad for saying it. now i have a link to provide if i ever get into an argument about why that single reeks of phony bullshit. it literally sounds like a song a 16 year old me would have written before i had the foresight and smacks on the back of the head to realize that NOBODY gives a damn about what a 16 year old’s existential life views are.

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