Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Album Review: The Cult – Love

The guiltiest of pleasures. This was the Cult in their most “goth” phase. Though not as much out-and-out “fun” as Electric, this album did provide a much needed breath of fresh air in 1985 as this indie band rediscovered their desire to rock, as opposed to using intricate layers of jangly guitars a la Smiths et al.

To fully enjoy this album, you have to bear in mind that the 2 main men are 2 of those most ridiculous (in a good way) characters in music. On riffage you have guitarist Billy Duffy, who on this album was starting to find his true sound, though he clearly hadn’t discovered ACDC yet. Frontman Ian Astbury was in his red Indian phase at this point, as opposed to his later incarnation as “yayowing rock god mutha".

The band do take themselves quite seriously on this album (though not as seriously as the likes of the Sisters of Mercy). I implore listeners to ignore the pseudo-goth cover art, and the nonsensical lyrics and song titles (Brother Wolf, Sister Moon anyone?) and focus on the rockier tracks. The one track on this album that really became popular was penultimate track She Sells Sanctuary, which is still is a staple of most ‘indie’ discos. The tune is a little obvious for my liking, built on a descending guitar riff, but it’s very catchy.

Opening track, Nirvana (which I’m convinced Cobain and co named themselves after) sets the tone nicely for the album, with the drummer counting out a beat, before a driving Bully Diffy riff enters (sorry, getting too excited, I meant Billy Duffy) backed up by a pulsing bass line. The track is quite anthemic, with a fine vocal by Wolfman (I mean Ian Astbury) leading into a simple chorus which carries the music superbly. The guitars sound great in this one, particularly in the 2 bridges within the song. There’s a lovely touch at the end of the track when the music dies away and the drummer gives a little flourish on cymbals.

It’s a tough act to follow, and the next 2 tracks are perfectly fine, but a bit more like bog-standard rock songs. The riffs are kind of cool, though Big Neon Glitter suffers a little from a certain U2-ish 80s guitar sound. Title track Love is a good brainless rock song, but is unfortunately followed by one of the Cult’s moodier moments. This is one band who cannot and should not carry off a moody song, as the aforementioned Brother Wolf, Sister Moon is just substandard will-to-live sapping Doorsy nonsense, even featuring laughable storm studio sound effects. It’s also about 4 or 5 minutes too long.

However this bluster is blown away by another massive anthem, Rain. It’s a really uncomplicated song, which is the Cult’s forte, but it features a really good riff and growling vocals before exploding into a nice basic chorus (“here comes the rain, here comes the rain, here she (she!) comes again, here comes the rain”). Guitar soloing is kept to a minimum across the album as Duffy plays with great economy.

After a metalish experiment (The Phoenix) which sounds like an Alice in Chains prototype the band manage to tone things down to great effect with the relaxed Revolution, which stays on the right side of cheesey, lumbering along likeably with a nice pay-off in the chorus, which is just want you want from the Cult. You don’t want anything complicated, or worse, innovative from them, you just want great rock riffs with big choruses. They would refine this formula to even greater effect by teaming up with Rick Rubin on the follow-up album Electric.