Cage the Elephant have quickly been rising the ranks of my favourite artists ever since I stumbled over their song “Cigarette Daydreams”. Down the rabbit hole I fell, and as time went on, I noticed their rather unique name popping up in my playlist more and more. Before long, I think it was safe to say I’d earned the title of ‘a fan’.
Now, not to sound like a grandad despite still being under twenty, but I have to say I think their older stuff is their best work. That’s not to say their more recent music is not good, but it’s tough to beat albums like 2011’s Thank You Happy Birthday, on which the masterpiece “Shake Me Down” features.
Whether it’s my favourite track on the album or not is something I can’t decide, but it is certainly up there. The way the drums poke their nose into the song every now and then until the big drop just past the one minute mark… ah, perfection. I’m a drummer myself (albeit a drummer currently without a drumkit) , and often imagine myself jamming along. There’s a simple beauty to it, which can be said about the whole song, really.
What I appreciate about songs like this is that the lyrics are vague enough to carry whatever meaning you want them to. Some people may turn their noses up at that for ‘disregarding the artist’s vision’ or some other such rubbish, but — as politely as possible — I do not care. I saw one interpretation saying the track is an allegory for the dangers of setting yourself unachievable dreams, and the disappointment it can bring. Google has helped me decipher some very clever figurative ideas to portray this, such as the line “I’m like Rolling Thunder”. Long story short, for anyone like me who didn’t know (or embarrassingly only knew the phrase from Call of Duty…), it was a US bombardment operation in Vietnam that received hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and immeasurable effort from the US military, yet failed miserably.
I’ve found there to be other potential interpretations, though. I like imagining the first two verses as a masterful depiction of drug addiction. I mean, it’s bang-on, really: “In my life I have seen people walk into the sea, just to find memories plagued by constant misery.” It fits, and lead singer Matt Schultz has had his own drug-related issues. Regardless, whether you want to believe it’s about impossible goals, drugs, or anything else — there’s no question that it’s beautiful writing.
In the end it does not matter what the words do or do not mean. Let it be what you want it to be. Either way, it’s a great-sounding song that will leave you singing “Even on a cloudy day” to yourself forever onwards.