Grammy award winning rock/alternative band, Cage the Elephant just released their live acoustic album, Unpeeled. Unlike your typical band, Cage the Elephant are known for their fantastic live performances (have you seen Matt Shultz crowd surf?!). For Unpeeled, they stripped down to even louder vocals, heavier instruments, an orchestra, and the beautiful sound of screaming fans losing their head over their favorite band.
In an interview with Billboard, the band stated that the project was born solely based on some curiosity. The story goes that after performing at a benefit acoustic show with a string quartet, management, and Cage thought “Wouldn’t it be cool to do that again sometime?” and so they embarked on the acoustic tour, ultimately recording the tracks and slapping them on the finished project.
The tracks are essentially Cage’s greatest hits album along with a few covers that receive the Shultz vocal treatment.
Songs like “Spiderhead,” “Take It Or Leave It,” “Sweetie Little Jean,” and “Rubber Ball” remind us of why Cage the Elephant are keeping rock and roll alive. There isn’t overproduction, there isn’t a hidden agenda, this album is really just a few dudes pouring their heart and soul on stage and fans jamming out to it with passion. You can feel the entire band’s powerful stage presence through the album which is a really rare thing for any musician to accomplish. When listening to the album, you go from feelings of sadness, empowerment, and utterly heart wrenching heartbreak – all so effortlessly.
“Rubber Ball” tackles the subjects of hurt, self-worth and existentialism while “Sweetie Little Jean” manages to turn a personal anecdote to a nostalgic rock & roll felt track. According to Genius, “[Sweetie Little Jean] was spurred on by a tragic story of a childhood friend of Matt Shultz who was abducted and murdered; the event was traumatic for him and the community around him.”
I think one of the reasons Cage the Elephant manages to keep fans of the genre satisfied is because of their ability to make you feel understood. In a strange way, some of their lyrics will make you feel so close to them, that it urges you to question your past, your present, and your future.
“How Are You True?” does exactly that.
“Wake up, say a little prayer, out of bed to the bathroom where I take a look at myself and I stop and stare… And I wonder who is this standing here…And I try to find the will to carry on.. wonder how much longer I can carry on..cause these days they take so long”
Looking back in hindsight Matt Shultz admitted that he was ultimately really excited to get Unpeeled up and running. “I was curious how [the stripped down versions] were going to translate [live]. “It was an exciting challenge to be still and emote and reflect, and also still be entertaining.” The entire album is a masterpiece in itself. The studio version of the songs have been recorded ages before Unpeeled, but the instrumentals and the live portion to this project reminds us why Cage the Elephant are keeping rock alive. You can stream Unpeeled here.