Cage The Elephant Makes an Electrifying Return

by Audrey Farris ‘25

When Cage the Elephant frontman Matt Shultz was arrested in January 2023 after two loaded guns were found in his New York City hotel room, it was the first anyone had heard about the band since early 2021. When a hotel employee saw Shultz pull a gun from his pants pocket in one of the hotel’s public restrooms, law enforcement was informed which prompted them to search Shultz’ room, where they found two loaded firearms along with multiple photos of the guns. Following his arrest, Shultz attended multiple inpatient and outpatient treatments for pyschosis due to an iatrogenic response to a medication. Cage the Elephant’s last album, Social Cues, came out in early 2019 and prompted a North American tour that summer, co-headlining with Beck. After the tour, the band disappeared, slowly losing the music world’s attention. This left many fans wondering if they would ever make a return and begin producing new music.

This past January, Cage the Elephant broke their five-year hiatus, posting a seemingly recent photo of the band with a clip of a new song playing in the background, captioned “Neon Pill Friday.” Single “Neon Pill” was released that Friday and quickly gained recognition from many large music publications. In late February, the band released a second single, “Out Loud,” and announced that their new album, Neon Pill, would be released on May 17. That same day they announced their summer tour with Young the Giant and Bakar.

From the early signs, the album will likely be reminiscent of their more recent albums, such as Social Cues which has a more produced sound than their earlier work. This is in contrast to the raw angst of their first album, Cage The Elephant. Listening to it makes you feel like a teenager in the musty garage at your parent’s home jamming out with your closest friends. While this same feel continues through their next album Thank You Happy Birthday, it begins to trickle off as they experiment with more intentional, sturdy sounds over their next few releases. The height of their production level took place on Social Cues, but has now reached another magnitude with their newest releases. “Neon Pill” and “Out Loud” don’t just sound like you are in the same garage, but rather that you are inside the world of the song and part of the story each is telling.

One thing has never changed about Cage The Elephant’s music since their first album nearly 15 years ago is their lyric content. Their music focuses on the dark truths of our world, everything from a first love gone wrong to coping with severe mental illness. One of their earliest hits, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” from the first album reveals the realities of criminals and their motivations. “Punchin’ Bag” off of their fourth studio album, Tell Me I’m Pretty, tells the story of a woman leaving an abusive relationship after realizing her worth. New single “Neon Pill” compares a one-night stand to a hit-and-run, following the same equation that is consistent throughout Cage the Elephant’s music. Despite their change in sound and production level, lyrical content is a crucial way that the band has been able to define their sound and add a sense of familiarity across their releases.

Knowing Cage The Elephant, it is likely that the same disappearance cycle will repeat after Neon Pill releases and their tour has concluded. Regardless, knowing that they are likely to come back (even if it is in 2030) with something fresh yet familiar is an exciting idea. Predicting where Neon Pill and any future releases will go is not entirely possible, but thinking back on how much Cage The Elephant has grown in their sound and story over the past 15 years, it’s certain that we will get music well worth the wait when it comes out.