No 268: Cage the Elephant

Today, Paul Lester heads down to Kentucky to find a group led by a preening, prancing narcissist who wants you to have group sex

Hometown: Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The lineup: Matt Shultz (vocals), Brad Shultz (guitar), Jared Champion (drums and percussion), Daniel Tichenor (bass, vocals), Lincoln Parish (lead guitar).

The background: Cage the Elephant, who hail from a small town in the American south best known for manufacturing Chevrolet Corvettes and Fruit of the Loom underwear, are the latest American hard rock band with a reputation for incendiary live performances, for music that is aggressive and raw, and for behaviour that is "unpredictable" and "wild". They've been attracting all the right indie radio people and won tour supports with everyone from Queens of the Stone Age to Foals. They've got a screechy singer, while the band whip up the proverbial electric storm, to the extent that they're being described as "like Axl Rose fronting Jet." Bring on the faint praise at the start why don't you? Still, if you prefer your frontmen to do the St Vitus Dance, Matt Shultz will be just the ticket. A preening, prancing, pirouetting narcissist, he has a penchant for pouting and whooping and doing things like running across the room, leaping onto tables, jumping up and down like a frenzied gibbon and generally acting the goat. And you should see him when he gets onstage.

Following stints on the Lollapolooza and Bonaroo touring festivals, Cage the Elephant recorded their debut album in Nashville and, weirdly for this most quintessential of US outfits, have just signed a UK deal and upped sticks to, of all places, Leytonstone in East London. But why Cage the Elephant? Because in Indian philosophies, the elephant is a symbol of strength and goodness. Oh, right, that makes sense. So Cage the Elephant are strong and good? Okaaay. "The Hindu god of wisdom, Ganesh, has an elephant's head," the band explain. "It's strong, honest and loyal. And our name kind of stands for people, the whole of society, the people we all are by nature - it seems like people want to cage the elephant. It seems like they want to cage all the good in the world. It's not just the government or the media, it's everywhere. But you turn on the news and hear 'today 26 people got gunned down, and one guy got his head chopped off, and here's a picture of it'. It's like there's no hope, and somebody's caged the elephant. But you can't do that."

No you can't. But you can investigate this bunch, if you like the idea of a band whose singer and guitarist were raised by Jesus freaks who found God on acid, who dress in red like Jack White, and who churn out big fat riffs over lyrics about fornicating and fighting. Like Free Love, for example, recorded as the four musicians got the collective horn. "It's about sex," says the singer, pouting and whooping and fiddling with his Fruit of the Loom underwear. "Whatever kind of sex you wanna have, and wherever you wanna have it, if you wanna have orgies and group sex you can have it. And feel good about it! Don't feel guilty!" Alright then, we won't.

The buzz: "Who needs indie whimsy when you've got scorched-earth desert punk as venomous as this?"

The truth: They're so generic you could almost have assembled this outfit using slide-rules and protractors, if indeed such implements were still in use.

Most likely to: Advertise Chevrolet Corvettes.

Least likely to: Advertise Fruit of the Loom underwear.

File next to: Rage Against the Machine, QOTSA, Wolfmother, Paramore.

What to buy: The single In One Ear is released by Relentless on February 18, with the album to follow in the summer.

Links: MySpace

Tomorrow's new band: Grant Langston & the Supermodels.

Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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