Cults were once an unknown duo wrapped in obscurity. Then they uploaded their song ‘Go Outside’ onto a popular music website, where it went viral. Securing a record deal, Cults released their first album in May this year. one small seed contributor Adam Alexander gives an exclusive review.
From what I had read and heard of them before listening to their entire album, and that the male-female duo can be seen rocking out on the cover, I was almost certain that their music would fall on the music spectrum somewhere between the feisty Garage Rock of The White Stripes and The Kills, and Sleigh Bell’s fuzzy, violent Noise Rock.
The album opens with ‘Abducted’, quite soft at first but with a foreshadowing tempo, before breaking out into a wall of noise, they’ve made a good start. One of the first things that you notice is how sweet Madeline Follin’s voice is, making quite a nice foil to the unashamedly rough sound that the instruments provide. From a two person band I might be forgiven for expecting a certain approach: direct music, not sparse but certainly basic and unpretentious, but second track ‘Go Outside’ shows that they’re not determined to assault listeners with too much at the same time. They have added some elements to their songs, like synths and samples, that were not expected from the riff-based, drum-smashing, head banging seemingly depicted on the cover. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and the song is a decent one.
‘You know What I mean’ is also a rather delicate song, despite some moments of shouting and guitar-bashing – by now Follin’s voice no longer stands out by being the only thing that’s feminine and gentle in a world of angry and wild instruments, because the rest of the music matches it.
‘Most wanted’ is also far from busy or aggressive, with little more than some beats to accompany the vocals. By ‘Walk At Night’, around the halfway mark, most of the songs are sounding pretty similar and all of them can be rounded off to a radio-friendly three minutes.
The songs are based around the vocals, with unhurried drums, and the guitar, far from defining the songs, is only ever just a bit of garnish on top.
On ‘Bumper’ the second half of the duo, Brian Oblivion (brilliant name if it really is his, I’m not convinced) is able to share vocal duties, something he hadn’t done since a cameo on the opening track. I’m a big fan of a back-and-forth between male and female vocalists. Whether the relationship between the two of them is real, fictional or representative of their respective partners, it’s a good idea, but they don’t pull it off nearly as well The XX did a couple of years ago. Still though, one of the albums stand-out songs.
He also helps out a bit on final track ‘Rave On’, a nice mantra to end the album on, clocking in at a respectably short 33.6 minutes.
For a hot new band, well hyped before their debut release, the album doesn’t strike me as special. It doesn’t have the infectious liveliness of other bands that demand such attention when bursting onto the scene, especially with a major label release. Nor do they have the subtle, artistic beauty that the quieter bands fill their songs with, and they certainly don’t have the rare combination of those two things.
It’s not a bad album, and the better songs on it are enjoyable. I can see why people like their style, but this is definitely not a great album, and the last few months have seen the release of some much better music than this. But so what? It’s early days for Cults and it’s good to have them around.