After a few tumultuous years, Cage the Elephant is back in top form on Neon Pill

click to enlarge After a few tumultuous years, Cage the Elephant is back in top form on Neon Pill
Neil Krug photo
Cage the Elephant returns in style with Neon Pill.

Neon Pill has been a long time coming for Cage the Elephant. The Kentucky-born rock band's first album in five years, following the Grammy award-winning Social Cues, came together at two very different points in the band's career and singer Matt Shultz's life.

About half of the record came together during the years following Social Cues, years during which Shultz experienced a medication-induced psychosis that led to delusions and paranoia.

"It was like being in an action film 24/7, but it's always at the most dangerous and terrible part," Shultz told Rolling Stone. "Or like a horror film, it was a nonstop horror film."

The psychosis reached a critical point in 2023 when Shultz was arrested for bringing loaded firearms into a New York hotel. (Shultz said he forgot about New York's gun laws and had no intention of using the guns.) Following his arrest, Shultz began a two-month hospital stay followed by six months of outpatient therapy.

"Sometimes in life you need a powerful attention-grabber, and that definitely grabbed my attention," Shultz said. "As soon as I was arrested, I was immediately checked into the hospital. Those two months were a time period of starting to have good reality testing again, where I was starting to understand what the real world actually was."

The other half of Neon Pill, which was released on May 17, came together after Shultz's outpatient therapy, leading the singer to discover new meaning in lyrics he wrote while paranoid.

"After I'd gotten well again, things that meant something profound to me were no longer profound," he said. "It's profoundly interesting. A lot of the lyrics had a very powerful meaning to me, but that meaning wasn't based in reality."

The band recorded Neon Pill with producer John Hill (Young the Giant, Carly Rae Jepsen) in studios in Texas, New York, Tennessee, North Carolina and California, collectively creating an album that sounds both like the Cage the Elephant fans have known and loved for years and like a version of the band that has caught up on all they'd missed since the release of Social Cues.

Neon Pill brings Cage the Elephant — Shultz, his brother Brad Shultz on guitar, bassist Daniel Tichenor, drummer Jared Champion, lead guitarist Nick Bockrath and guitarist/keyboard player Matthan Minster — to Northern Quest Resort and Casino on Sunday, June 30. Which is something that may have seemed unlikely just a year ago.

"It's a miracle to be performing again," he told Rolling Stone. "It's a miracle I'm alive."

After peeking at some set lists from the tour so far, here are a few Cage the Elephant songs you'll definitely want to revisit before heading to the show.

"Neon Pill" from Neon Pill

The new album's title track was written in 2022, a year before Shultz's arrest, when he thought someone was tampering with his medication, unaware it was causing his psychosis. "When my brother first heard 'Neon Pill,' he said it was heartbreaking, because while I knew something was wrong, I couldn't get what it was," Shultz told Rolling Stone. "It was heartbreaking for him because he could obviously see it quite clearly."

"In One Ear" from Cage the Elephant

The raucous second single from the band's self-titled debut didn't make much of an impact on the charts after the album's 2008 release, but following the success of "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked," a 2010 re-release of "In One Ear" sent the song to the very top of the Billboard's Alternative Songs chart. The song sounds like the controlled chaos that is perfect for a live show.

"Cigarette Daydreams" from Melophobia

There's good reason "Cigarette Daydreams" has become a staple of Cage the Elephant encores lately. The slower tune feels introspective, perfect for near the end of the concert when you're blissfully tired after a night of live music. "You can drive all night / Looking for the answers in the pouring rain / You wanna find peace of mind / Looking for the answer," Shultz sings. With close to 1 billion streams on Spotify, the song is definitely an audience favorite too.

"Rainbow" from Neon Pill

A grooving song about how Schultz's wife picks him up when he's down. He's said it's his favorite song on the album, so chances are high it will appear on the setlist. "You are more vibrant than a technicolor flower bloom / Worth more than any sunset that I ever even knew / As far as east is to the west, there is no flaw in you." ♦

Cage the Elephant, Young the Giant, Bakar, Willow Avalon • Sun, June 30 at 6:30 pm • $60-$488 • All ages • Northern Quest Resort & Casino • 100 N. Hayford Road, Airway Heights • northernquest.com

Music in Manito @ Manito Park

Tue., July 16, 7-9 p.m. and Wed., July 17, 7-9 p.m.
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