Saturday, July 4, 2009

Open Letter to "Cage The Elephant"

Well, I've been pretty absent from the blog recently, and for that I'm sorry. RL and the band and novel #2 have been a real time- and inspiration-suck. I took a look at what I've been writing as well, and found that I've been doing positive reviews of really awesome bands. So to break myself back into I'll supply a little slice of my original goal in writing for Crappie: to tell some douchey bands off in a way that makes me look somewhat douchey myself. All the while, we do it Pyrrhus-style. SO, without further ado, here's


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

Oh, and if anyone needs an antidote, here's a little something.


sparish81 said...

CTE happen to live and work in the same town as Jack White who happens to consider them original. Jack White even admits to his surprise at fans around the world who think anything he writes/plays was inspired and that even random shizo comments are admired by some English who thought he was inspired. At least he deserves a point for intelligence if not a minus for mental manipulation of weaker minded souls across the pond. Not an American around who thinks CTE has any input from AM songs. Who would want to imitate second rate crap anyway? JG keep blogging it is clear you need the practice and many of us need a laugh especially since today is independence day in America which just happens to be independence from Britain and those who thought they knew better.


Goldie Davich said...


Thank you for taking the time to take my breath away. I'm so glad you are here. I haven't even heard this band. I substituted a feel names and then I smiled.


Amber Dawn said...

Wow. I feel lucky not to have heard CTE. But perhaps I should take a listen just so I can form my own opinion...

Amber Dawn said...

and why does anyone care whether or not jack white likes something? help me out here?

Jess Gulbranson said...

Henry, thanks for reading. Welcome to the blog! :)

Amber, while Jack White may occasionally make some good music, his liking of another contemporary band might be a useful signifier.

See how nice I am in comments!?!?

Goldie Davich said...

Did anyone watch the trailer for "It might get loud"?

Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page talk about amps and pedals.

ALSO: I'd love to go see this with a bunch of us.

Jess Gulbranson said...

That movie actually looks pretty cool.

choirboy said...

my god man...all your taste is definitely in your mouth! All the people who show up at their concerts and buy their CD's can't be wrong! Believe me, I remember when people like you hated on Led Zeppelin in their early days and look what happened to them. But that's cool, because for every hater like you, there's 10 more that attend their concert!

Amber Dawn said...

Yeah, I guess I'm just like, the white stripes are okay and everything, but I'm not that interested one way or the other in what Jack White listens to, or really anything he does in general. Unless it was filthy or shocking. Then I might be interested...

Anonymous said...

They say that we ain't got the style,
We ain't got the class,
We ain't got the tunes that's goin to put us on the map
And I'm a phony in disguise,
Tryin to make the radio,
I'm an anti-social anarchist, I sound like so and so,
They say I'm just a stupid kid,
Another crazy radical,
Rock and roll is dead I probably should've stayed in school,
Another generation X who somehow slipped up through the cracks,
Oh they'd love to see me fall but I'm already on my back

And it goes In One Ear,
And right out the other,
People talkin' shit but you know I never bother,
It goes In One Ear,
And right out the other,
People talkin' shit,
They can kiss the back of my hand

Now I know I'm not a saint,
I been a sinner all my life,
I ain't tryin to hide me flaws,
I'd rather keep them in the light,
They wanna criticise, scrutinize,
Cast another stone,
Burn me at the stake and sit and watch it from their throne,
They say the devil is my pal,
I do a lotta drugs!
The crowd will only like me if they're really fuckin' drunk,
They think they know my thoughts,
But they don't know the least,
If they listened to the words they'd find the message tucked beneath

But it goes In One Ear,
And right out the other,
People talkin shit even though they never bother,
It goes In One Ear,
And right out the other,
People talkin' shit, they can kiss the back of my hand

(You hear that... you hear what's coming? Oh you better run for the hills, cos we're coming to your town, and we're gonna burn that mother fucker down! )

Here's the moral to the story,
We don't do it for the glory,
We don't do it for the money,
We don't do it for the fame
So all the critics who despise, go ahead and criticise,
It's your tyranny that drives us, adds the fire to our flames

And it goes
In One Ear,
And right out the other,
People talkin' shit but you know we'll never bother,
It goes In One Ear,
And right out the other,
I'm only playing music cos you know I fuckin love it,
It goes In One Ear,
And right out the other,
People talkin' shit but you know we'll never bother,
It goes In One Ear, and right out the other,
People talkin shit well you know they can kiss the back of my hand.

In One Ear - Cage the Elephant.

Jess Gulbranson said...

Wow, um, that's something. It's atrocious to start with, it must be D-M-U-B as an actual 'song' with 'music.' Did they rip that off from Vanilla Ice instead of Arctic Monkeys? At least they have a consistent 'cold' theme.

Daniel said...

Found this blog while doing a google search for "Cage the Elephant" + cliche.

Because that's all it seems they try to do is spout out a random string of cliches in an effort to sound "deep"

aint no rest for the wicked
money dont grow on trees
aint nothing in this world for free

and some other song about being pushed up against a wall.


Anonymous said...

I knew at first listen that I hated them for some reason, so I did a google search for CTE SUCKS (I'm totally cool I know) and found this. Thanks for this article.

Anonymous said...

Wow, so you hate a band... THAT'S original. Hey, here's an idea, STFU, because guess what? NOBODY GIVES A SHIT. You are clearly one of those self obsessed wannabe "intelligent" hippies who's goal in life is to hate on everything that doesn't suit their fancy. I am fucking tired of people like you, plain and simple. You want attention? That's fine, go juggle on a street corner, but please for the love of god, spare me from your gay ass opinions, before I have to shoot myself in the face.

One word comes to mind... Douche.

Dr. Something said...

Gawd, Jess! Didn't you realize that this would come up in search engines and fans would find it and be exposed to your toxic opinion and shoot themselves in the face?! How inconsiderate of you to be a blogger with an opinion. Humph!

Jess Gulbranson said...

Of course, Dr. I enjoy the antics of Juggalos. See how they caper and dance!

NotReallyHere said...

Well, um, sir, you are obviously a tone-deaf moron. Have you even heard "In One Ear" or "Back Against the Wall"? These guys are great. And "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked"? Pretty beast. So, now tell me, what kind of music do you listen to. First answer that and then you can argue your point.

Jess Gulbranson said...

Thanks for your kind wishes, NotReallyHere! Though I would rather be a COMPLETELY deaf moron if it meant never having to listen to Cage The Elephant again, especially their horrid singles WHICH MY HAVING LISTENED TO WAS THE POINT OF THE ENTIRE POST WHICH YOU OBVIOUSLY DIDN'T READ. Quel bete, indeed.

What KIND of music do I listen to? What KIND of idiot question is that? I'm a fucking music critic. And musician. Also, I'm awesome. Which means I listen to all sorts of music, and the music I like is awesome.

Now that I have met your criteria for stating my opinion, here it is. My opinion is that you, and all the weak-ass haters like you, should snuggle up to a donkey's syphilitic nutsack and stay there. FOR FUCKING EVER.

The Master said...

Well Jess, I really doubt your band will ever even scrape the kind of fame Cage the Elephant have attained. I bet you play two chord riffs and think that shitty indie music whining about big bad meanies is a legitimate excuse for music. Well, I guess anything with notes and noise can be considered music...

NotReallyHere said...

All right. We need to make sure you are mentally stable first. Your opinion on Insane Clown Posse - go!

Amber Dawn said...

Hmmmm... the Master has clearly never heard Jess' music as that is an extraordinarily inaccurate description of it. Unless the tracks I have heard are completely anomalous, there doesn't seem to be any repeated two chord riffs or moping about the big bad meanies. Perhaps take a listen and then if you must insult his musical talent, do it in an informed fashion?

Jess Gulbranson said...

Amber, thanks for the vote of confidence, and also your presence. It was getting to be quite the ignorant sausage fest with these third-rate haters.

'Master'- Okay, first off, writing a story about daycare while you have a name like 'The Master'- that's just creepy. Judging by the description, though, it's just the fact that you are a terribly inept and cliche writer. Your appreciation of CTE is no big surprise in that light.

And further-why would I want to scrape a birdcage? What kind of insane goal is that? Music doesn't need an excuse to be made, and I do it because I like to. To paraphrase for a moment, just because the sun shines on more than one thing doesn't mean that it shines any less. You read your Marquis de Sade, you'd know that. In this case, just because the sun shines on shit and flowers alike, doesn't make the sun any less bright. Whether the music I make is any good or not- which is subjective to PEOPLE WHO HAVE ACTUALLY LISTENED TO IT- has no bearing on the fact that I am a critic and my assessment of Cage The Elephant is that they are a classlessly derivative heap of schlock. I have provided examples and counterexamples, and I have done my due diligence. That is why I can sleep at night, then wake up in the morning and tell you to TRIP AND FALL THROUGH YOUR OWN ASSHOLE AND BREAK YOUR MOTHERFUCKING NECK.

Oh, and NotReallyHere- I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you have some sort of neurological disorder that prevents you from remembering previous comments, such as the one where I MADE FUN OF INSANE CLOWN POSSE. The only other suggestion I could have for you if you really are that dumb is to... oh, I don't know, join the band Cage The Elephant?

Eriq Nelson said...

It strikes me as odd that people only feel the need to chime in on negative reviews. I have recently gone as far as to describe a band as Greek demigods, and yet I hear no comments from our fine readers. "Conversations" like this make me fear there is truth to John Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad theory. Jess, you and I disagree on a huge range of music. As of yet, we have neglected to impugn either our respective excellent lineages or our mental states. Though, I believe at one time you referred to me as a "Damned Filthy Beardist" a title I carry rather proudly you strutting pompadoured peacock. Am I remiss in this? Should I devolve into a rambling set of unsubstantiated claims?

Jess Gulbranson said...

Well, Eriq, you thrice-damned Virginian, here I agree. But let me say this...

I would love to Gulbranson these haters all day, but it's not helping anyone. No one is learning anything. Here's the problem- all the 'lovers' of Cage The Elephant are not providing any suitable justification- or at least any comparable to mine- for their opinions. No one seems willing to testify to how awesome they are, in any sort of authentic way, but are more than willing to bash me. And not very well, mind you. If anything, these attacks have only made me invincible.

I know this is not formal debate, but most of the responses by CTE fans are just limp ad hominem garbage. I'm starting to feel like Ray Bolger. The only remotely 'positive' fallacies they can come up with are an argumentum ad verecuniam (Jack White) and ad populum (lots of people like them).

Now, I will buck Quirk's Exception and end this ridiculous thing here by positing that there was someone else who a lot of people liked... and he was a vegetarian... who rode his bike... and critics detracted from his artistic endeavors. See, I don't even have to tempt Godwin's Law and speak his name.


NotReallyHere said...

Tell me what you think of Metallica.

Dr. Something said...

Tell me what you think of Ingmar Bergman, and baba ganoush, and baseball, and pina coladas and getting caught in the rain...

NotReallyHere said...

I think Ingmar Bergman is a great director, but I never really loved his movies, I particularly don't care for baba ganoush because I don't like eggplant, I think baseball is a sport for pussies, but pina coladas and the rain's all right with me.

Ms. Goldie D. said...

Out of all of the CIM Bloggers who do you think we should have in the center square?

Dr. Something said...

Ultimate Kegels is a sport for pussies.

Um... if this thread hadn't already technically ended three posts ago, I'd say we totally derailed the fuck out of it!

/awesome gratuitous profanity

PensFan said...

Well, baseball does suck. It's all about ice hockey.

Dr. Something said...

Goldie, I'd say it's a tough call between the filthy beardist and the the pompadoured peacock.

Ms. Goldie D. said...

Today I heard a euphemism for "accidentally" getting pregnant using tampered with birth control. I can't get it out of my head: "getting one past the goalie"


PensFan said...

^That's actually pretty clever. Damn hockey-heads

Kentucky Prophet said...

I applaud this post, old as it is. I hate this band and hate that I live in CTE's hometown/vortex of popularity. Bowling Green, Ky.

I love how their defenders point to the band's success as proof that your/our subjective opinion is wrong. I suspect many of those comments came from the BG area, by people who are or aspire to be close to the band.

Anonymous said...

Jess Gulbranson:

Check out TECHNOLOGY VS. HORSE for some real bottom of barrel scraping crappy indie music.

Cage the Elephant and these guys are practically gay for each other. Technology Vs. Horse is the only band listed on CTE's lead singer's facebook page under "music interests".

CTE got all of their best ideas from TVH. However, they're not currently on speaking terms because TVH originally wrote "Ain't No Rest for the Wiggins" (it's the same music and everything but the lyrical content touches on the beloved bestselling Sci-Fi novel Ender's Game instead).

Since the song blew up, TVH have nearly eaten themselves to death from binging on KFC's "Double Down" chicken sandwiches in attempt to drown their sorrows.

Needless to say, Bowling Green KY is a very supportive, friendly, fun-loving, local music-supporting community.


Fuck it. I think we should hang both bands. However, you're gonna need a thicker rope to lasso TVH singer's, Mike Farmer, bitter fat fucking ego and damn innertube for his neck.

Enlighten yourself the delightful tunes of TVH here:

PensFan said...

Jess, what college did you go to?

Jess Gulbranson said...

I went to one term of Fire School. Why?

PensFan said...

Fire School, as in, a school for firefighters?

Jess Gulbranson said...

Oh, so having recently made the acquaintance of one of the dudes from Technology vs. Horse, I must say that any comparison between them and CTE is facile. They're pretty good freaky garage stuff, and they have nailed the cool "We're fighting vampires" art schtick, a la Scientist.

Daniel said...

This is awesome. I also found this by Google-ing "Cage the Elephant sucks." I love the internet.

Wayne said...

new interview of Cage the Elephant:

John the fisherman said...

You have only referenced 2 songs that you are going to judge an entire band by. You before saying a band needs to cease to exist, need to do your research. I thought the same thing, there 2 latest albums are amazing, real and are able to connect with an audience, the songs are honest. You have no idea what your blabbering about.

Jess Gulbranson said...

In the five years since this post was published, you could have been figuring out how to use commas and there/their. Just saying.

John the fisherman said...

listen to the song telescope by cage the elephant cigarette daydreams
take it or leave it Teeth Those are all great songs. I haven't really checked out your blog, so I am not sure what type of music you consider great. The songs I listed here are varied and are influenced by different types of music. I agree the songs they choose to play by this band are terrible. This band does make some terrible songs, but they also write incredible songs too. Just like many other bands out there we consider great.

John the fisherman said...

Really, you have to nitpick at my typing rather than actually give an intelligent response. You probably can't fathom an existence where you, the almighty you can be wrong. Probably a huge reason for why you have this blog, you think people care about what you have to say. Maybe they do=, Maybe they don't. I am hoping you can care about what I have to say. If not it's ok, no big loss, your just some old dude that has a blog, and whines about a band because he heard the songs, the radio decides are good, and then proceed to judge an entire bands career by it. That makes a whole lot of sense. I hope your readers are smarter than you are.

Jess Gulbranson said...

I wasn't old when I first posted this old article, but I am now. And my beard is gray from having to deal idiot commenters. Hell, it's been so long since this was posted I don't even write for the blog anymore!

Things that have happened in the real world since this post: war in Afghanistan, Arab Spring, the AHCA,the Aurora shootings... and that's just stuff starting with A. And you're here griping because some jasper posted an opinion piece on a C-list band? Way to go.

Colin Kombrinck said...

Sir I feel bad for all the crap thrown at you over the years. But I feel like Telling a band to stop existing is a little to far. You (being in a band or have been in a band) know how rough it is to make original stuff so why do you have to be so harsh? I understand you are entitled to your own opinion but I just don't understand why you have to be so cold. I'm not hating, just wondering.

Colin Kombrinck said...

Fresh Milk said...

As a CTE fan I sincerely apologise for the idiocy of other fans who don't seem to get that what they think of the band is also opinion.

TRich said...

Hey Jess just a quick question. Have you heard any of Cage The Elephant's new stuff? Since the publishing of this article they've come a long way, but I was unsure if you would take the time to listen to it based on your disgusted tone.

Jeremy Hale said...

Stumbled here via "cage the elephant jack white rip off".

This Chick from Tosa said...

I also arrived by googling CTE sucks.

Someone today actually tried to list them in a paragraph of examples including “great bands” and this one was the worst hipsteriest of them all.

Unknown said...

Your a complete moron if you listened to all kinds of music then you would love cte obviously your really young or really single minded what a efin moron you are I truelly hope you actually start listening to all music for fuck sakes ,you don't have to like them but stop hating its bad for you, oh this is old mags your probably in jail or dead by now

Gil Taylor said...

Cage the elephant is efen awesome plane and simple reminds me off nirvana in some ways reminds me of a lot of bands but so original they are unique and familiar true goods of music don't forget music is universal ,spiritual, right straight to the sole,timeless,what would we do if all music sounded the same you morons

Wilson The Coconut said...

They won a Grammy for best rock band.