Brothers Brad and Matt Schultz had a rough youth in small-town Kentucky, where music, money and hope were hard to find. Growing up in an eventually broken home with six people squeezed into a two-bedroom apartment, they sneaked in Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix music behind the backs of disapproving parents.
When Brad was 12, he spent 20 hard-to-come-by dollars on a used guitar. That it fell apart before the brothers could afford a replacement is testimony to the spirit behind Cage The Elephant.
The band writes and plays like it’s important, the way you’d expect from a bunch of misfits who grew up in a town where success meant working at the same plant where your parents worked. The brothers chose a different path, joining Jared Champion (drums) and Brad Tichenor (bass) to form Cage; though their songs about alienation (“In One Ear”), crooked preachers (the title cut), and borderline hopelessness (“Lotus”) give the impression there wasn’t much choice involved – it was more a soul-salvaging need.
On “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” powerful semi-metal rhythms meld with Brad’s impressively sophisticated, sometimes wrenching, psychedelic guitar sounds while brother Matt spits defiant mile-a-minute lyrics in a perfect garage-band voice; Cage The Elephant plays like they’ve been listening to 13th Floor Elevators and watching Jim Jarmusch movies every day since elementary school. They play like they mean it; there’s just no way their music could be this viscerally charged, this real, this good, if they didn’t.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’09 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.