First of a CULT double shot! Come back tomorrow for another!
This is an ugly album. Even though a 1989 MuchMusic interview with Billy Duffy revealed The Cult would most likely not work with Bob Rock again, they did indeed re-team with the Canadian producer on 1994’s The Cult. Duffy didn’t think the magic of Sonic Temple was something that could be repeated, based on the less than satisfactory (to him) results of working with producer Steve Brown twice. On The Cult, however, no attempt was made in any way to recapture any sound or era. This was brand new from the womb of 1994, and sounds very dated to that dark time.
The twisted “Gone”, unorthodox and sparse, was a shock to the system. Once the listener gets his or her bearings, it’s actually a great fucking song. Just a little off-kilter; enough to sound as if it’s not being played right. It’s a whole new side to The Cult. I wonder how much of this has to do with the new lineup, including bassist Craig Adams (The Sisters of Mercy/The Mission) and drummer Scott Garrett (Dag Nasty). Ian Astbury’s delivery was also quite different. Rather than simply howling those patented Astbury melodies, Ian barks, whispers and bellows.
“Coming Down (Drug Tongue)” was the first single, very different from the hits from the past two or three albums. It had a droning, U2-ish vibe. It’s quite a good song, but it wasn’t love at first listen. “Real Grrrl” has a slower sway to it, and there is a lot to like about the song. It’s interesting to hear Bob Rock using open space a lot more in his production; this is right after the supersaturated Motley Crue album. Much of the instrumentation is very dry, but then there are Bob Rock trademarks, such as the Scott Humphrey synth on “Real Grrrl.”
Sounding much like a Superunknown (the softer side thereof) outtake, “Black Sun” is dark and quiet. Ian sings of abuse. The band back him with the barest of instrumentation, before the Billy Duffy solo around 3:20. It is impossible to ignore the similarities to all the grunge bands of the time. The basic, stripped down guitar parts and rhythm-driven arrangements speak of the time.
There are few standouts on The Cult. The album is more cerebral than past Cult albums, and is more about its overall direction than individual songs. The aforementioned tracks are all great, as are a few others. They include “Star” (also a single) which is a song that was re-worked many times going back to Sonic Temple. Previously, it had been known as “Tom Petty” and “Star Child”, and can be found in both forms on the expansive Rare Cult box set. It is one of the few songs that slightly resemble “old Cult”. “Be Free” was a single (in Canada at least) given away with a case of beer. How Canadian, eh? (I sold mine on eBay for $10). It too is a pretty good song. Then there’s “Sacred Life”, a somber ballad naming Abbie Hoffman, River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain as painful losses to the world. Album closer “Saints Are Down” is a powerful epic, and also a standout.
The Cult broke up/went on hiatus after this album. They reunited in 1999 (with Matt Sorum on drums) and released a new song called “Painted on the Sun” written by Diane Warren (!!) from the Gone in 60 Seconds soundtrack. This was followed by the excellent Beyond Good and Evil CD, also produced by Bob Rock. This self-titled departure remained just that, as The Cult went full-bore metal on Beyond Good and Evil. This album is an experiment that went unrepeated, and that is fine. I like it for what it is, but I don’t need another.