Battle of the Bands 11.10.09: Cage The Elephant vs. Flyleaf
Posted by John Dotson on 11.10.2009
Cage the Elephant are riding the momentum of a brilliant album, but can they overcome a returning Flyleaf?
Hearty greetings to one and all and welcome back to yet another installment of Battle of the Bands, a rather interesting match up coming at you this week, but before we get down to formalities, here's your little appetizer before the main course.
Before the Blow
Earlier in the week I made the effort to go out and get my hands on the first real live DVD that had piqued my interest in a while, that being Kings of Leon Live at the O2 London.
Having seen the group live earlier this year I was interested to see how they would do in front of a MUCH larger crowd than anything they played to in my Australian homeland. Needless to say, while the album is very good in many portions, it never really reaches greatness, and seems at most to be a rehashing of the pop tracks that have captured young people's imaginations over the last year or two.
One bone I really have to pick with the group is the almost complete lack of songs from their incredibly strong debut ‘Youth and Young Manhood'. In a performance of 22 songs, we are offered just 3 from this release, something that honestly left me a little disappointed.
By the time the Kings Of Leon reach the final song of the night, the absolutely kickass ‘Black Thumbnail' they are really firing all cylinders, just a shame that it took them the whole concert to reach that high point. Anyway, for what it's worth, the DVD is definitely deserving of at least one viewing.
Anyway, onto the face-off
Cage the Elephant- Back Against the Wall vs. Flyleaf- Again
Things seem to have come full circle with this article, as way back when I first started writing for 411, one of the original songs I covered was the great Cage The Elephant track ‘Ain't No Rest for the Wicked'. Back then the boys hailing from Kentucky managed to pull out a surprising win against rock mainstays Green Day, and now they may very well be the first group to take out two wins in the battle arena as we examine their latest single offering ‘Back Against the Wall'.
But let's not forget their competition today. Since forming in 2000, alternative rock band Flyleaf have carved themselves a comfortable niche in the post-grunge scene, their debut album, 2005's self-titled ‘Flyleaf' has managed to sell over a million copies, not bad considering how much rubbish exists amongst the whole post-grunge/alt-metal scene. Now the group is returning with their second album ‘Memento Mori' and the albums lead single ‘Again' is the other combatant in today's contest. So will Flyleaf pull off a win in their battle debut? Or will Cage the Elephant claim yet another scalp? Let's do this.
Cage the Elephant- Back Against the Wall
Few albums released in 2009, let alone debut albums, have grabbed me as much as Cage The Elephant's self-titled release has. Led by the massive single ‘Ain't No Rest For the Wicked', this album full of unavoidably catchy tracks will definitely see some form of inclusion in my year-end lists.
‘Back Against the Wall' is, for the most part, the slow burner of the album. While other songs will jump out with much more immediacy, this latest single continues to grow after a very subdued opening and sticks around in your head a hell of a lot longer than a lot of the other tracks.
Lead singer Matt Schultz, while not the most naturally gifted vocalist out there, sings with the energy of a man trying to incite a riot, while not putting the man on too much of a pedestal, it's almost the sort of power and enthusiasm you can imagine some like Bob Dylan singing with if he was young in this day and age.
Lyrically, Schultz uses the song to air issues of self-confidence, and while some lines such as "scared to face the man I am," are so corny they could be growing on a stalk in a field, there is just an undeniable catchiness about the track that sucks you right in. All in all, a very powerful single, but one wouldn't want much less from what is a very powerful debut album.
What to say about this latest offering from Flyleaf? The group has been ‘accused' of being a Christian band, while I don't necessarily see anything wrong with this, I can understand how it would feel restrictive for your group to be labeled a bunch of god-botherers.
In songs like the group's latest track ‘Again', I personally fail to see any real connection to the Christian Rock genre. Sure, lyrical ideas such as being "down on your knees," may seem to reek of religious influence, but I ask, which post-grunge band doesn't use these sort of generic clichés? From what I've seen this is an area of music that doesn't exactly pride itself on diversity, so you can exactly crucify one band without crucifying the rest.
One area in which Flyleaf does diverge from the alt-metal norm, is with female lead singer and pleasant thing to look at, Lacey Mosley. Whereas a song like their latest single seems like it could be performed by just about any of your Creeds or your Alterbridges, the female vocals adds a bit of flavor to lift the track above tedium.
There Can Only Be One!
This week I feel quite comfortable giving Cage the Elephant the..umm.. ‘honor' of being the first two time winners of the battle. While there is obviously a market for bands such as Flyleaf out there, their latest track ‘Again' just hasn't really offered me anything to make me do a complete turn around on the whole post-grunge scene. Congrats Cage the Elephant, you fellows have truly earned it.