The New Now - Archives

Cage The Elephant: Ragin’ Funk ‘n’ Roll?

The New Now

It's always refreshing when you discover a band with a great tune and find that they're more than another one-hit wonder. That's the case with Cage The Elephant, a quintet out of Bowling Green, Kentucky. The first time I heard the band's "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked," with its bluesy slide guitar riff, it immediately appealed to me and reminded me of a few other things I like--the White Stripes and early Aerosmith. Check out the video clip below.

Eons ago, when I worked at the entertainment trade publication many call the Bible of the music industry, the staff met on a conference call one day to try and coin a name for the mix of punk, rock and funk that was then burgeoning on the music scene. Coining such a term might seem like a lofty goal, but there was historic precedent. Decades earlier while he was working at Billboard, a fellow named Jerry Wexler coined the term "Rhythm and Blues" for a genre of music that had been previously known as "Race Music." While all the people on the conference call that day were pretty special individuals, none of us were Jerry Wexler, who would go on to co-found Atlantic Records, and it was a different time. "Funk 'n' Roll," the term we came up with, didn't stick, but I personally found it funny. I imagined an old cranky fellow complaining to his waiter at a deli about the fact his early-bird special didn't come with promised piece of bread. "Where's my funkin' roll?" the old fellow might bark. I suppose it could also come in handy for frustrating actors hoping to get a big part in a production. "I didn't get the funkin' role," the dejected Hollywood hopeful might curse.

I hadn't thought of "funk 'n' roll" in ages, until I came across it in a write up about Cage The Elephant. In his impressive report on the band's gig last fall in the West Midlands, NME's Rick Martin, wrote, "It's exhilarating, 100 mph stuff, with the band not even considering stopping for breath during their half hour of relentless funk 'n' roll." Which sounds impressive, but I wouldn't consider Cage The Elephant's music funk 'n' roll. Sure it's a bit funky, but it seems more rockin' than funky to me, but I'm not writing this to quibble about funk 'n' roll. What is important is Cage The Elephant won over the seemingly hard-to-please Mr. Martin. In his piece, before he witnessed Cage blow the roof off the sucker, he wrote: "To borrow their own lyric, Cage The Elephant are often very much 'in one ear and right out the other' on their self-titled debut album: shameless retro dogshit that's worryingly in thrall to berks like Kid Rock, Jet, and most criminal of all, Uncle Kracker."

I haven't had the good fortune to catch Cage The Elephant live, nor have I had heard their recently released self-titled debut in its entirety, but what I've heard, is impressive. Like a lot of other great American bands over the years, Cage found its first taste of success in the U.K. where its album was released last year. This track, referenced by NME, has already been released as a single in the U.K. In it, the band seemingly takes on the haters.

Rockin', yes. Funk 'n' roll? I think not. But fear not. If you want your funk 'n' roll, I'm happy to deliver. Seems Cage can bring it live. Check out the clip below in which Cage The Elephant joins forces with AutoVaughn for a raucous cover of Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name Of." The old man at the deli might say, "Turn down that damn funk 'n' roll!" How about you?

View Comments