REVIEW: The Cult – The Cult (1994)

First of a CULT double shot!  Come back tomorrow for another!

CULT_0002THE CULT – The Cult (1994 Universal)

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.

CULT_0003

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.

3/5 stars

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76 comments

  1. This one was a complete left turn from Sonic Temple! At the time it was like huh??! But I could see what they were doing or what Ian was doing distancing himself from the arena King he so loathed on becoming(seemed like it to me) . Over time I’ve appreciated this release but with so many others of there’s that are stronger this one gets left behind.
    3/5 is more than fair.

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    1. They really had to switch gears in some way in order to stay relevant. On this, I think they were actually pretty far ahead of most of the crowd. They were daring. There are a lot of positive qualities to this album.

      I’m listening to the Born Into This CD for the first time in years. Great album. John Tempesta is one hell of a drummer.

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  2. I remember reading somewhere at the time (maybe Tower Records’ PULSE! magazine) this was supposed to be The Cult’s “Achtung Baby”?!?!? What that meant, or was supposed to mean, I can’t quite say, and at the time many bands cast onto the outside looking in by grunge (or Seven Mary Three and Candlebox) were looking to retrench and re-invent, AND release a self-titled album several albums into their career. I always have wanted to love this album more than I did/do, just because, as you said, it’s so dark and of its time. Can’t believe it’s been twenty years since this was released.

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  3. Certainly a polarizing album! It took me a few years and several listens to fully warm up to and ultimately embrace it. In some ways, it has become my favorite Cult album—although I would never claim it to be their best. “Gone” blows me away and psychedelic tracks like “Joy” (which sounds like a cross between the Doors and John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey”) wind up sounding less dated than anything from the rather lackluster Ceremony. It’s a long album, but closing the album with the amazing “Saints Are Down” ends the journey on a high note. The Cult draws two kinds of fans: hard rock/metal listeners and alternative rock listeners (three types if you include those like me who straddle both genres). I suspect this album is more embraced by the alternative rock fans.

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    1. I think you nailed it. As a rock fan in the 90’s, most bands were changing style at the time and I tried to keep up with them. I was hoping for something a little more straightforward on this one, and I listened persistently trying to get it.

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  4. The Cult called it quits after this album failed. It’s not hard to say why it failed. It sucks, that’s why. I loved Sonic Temple and I thought Ceremony was really underrated. I actually think it is just as good, to be honest. So when The Cult went grunge with this album, I was really disappointed. I’d give it 2/10.
    But yes, their first reunion album Beyond Good And Evil was really great and sounded like The Cult should sound, more or less.

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        1. I wanted the single because it had all those extended mixes. And I loved the blues tune Messin’ Up the Blues. I got the single before I got the album (which was for my birthday 1989. I also got Kim Mitchell’s Rockland on that birthday. How do I remember that shit? I still associate those two albums together. This is the kind of stuff that will make up the Post-RST’s.)

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        2. YES! Awesome! Messin’ Up the Blues! Forgot about that! Dude, great memory!! I have no idea what happened to that cassette, but I played it to death!

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        3. Well I know I kept my cassettes (and box, and cards, and pin — all the mail-aways) safe somewhere. Can’t remember where. But they’re around.

          I later replaced these on CD. With box. And cards! So I have all three singles with playable digital versions now.

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        4. I should ask K if he has the Cult. He gets stuff digitally and keeps it to himself…then we’ll be in the car and I’ll be all, “Whaaa? When did you get this?!” Our digital collection is a little disjointed.

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        5. It is funny. He’ll surprise the heck out of me. KATY effing PERRY, Mike! He used to tease me for stuff like that. Maybe he’s coming around to different music? He is hung on that Daft Punk song “Get Lucky” too. Shocking! :O

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        6. I was eating out with friends one night, and one had an iPhone. This is before I had my Blackberry. A song came on, and I said, “Can you use your iPhone to tell me who sings this? I like to know who I hate.” It was a Katy Perry ballad.

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        7. If I can jump in on this convo, when yer buying the Pure Cult, make sure you get the old one. They remastered and rereleased it not long ago, and the track listing is different. You want the old one, the Pure Cult For Lovers and blah blah blah. If it says The Singles on it anywhere, and is from 2xxx, that’s not yer one.

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        8. I think it’s ’cause Google changed how you see what peope have searched for. Sometimes I get nothing or “unknown search terms”. Super boring.

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        9. Also: funbags? Bwahaha I don’t believe in all the time I’ve spent in locker rooms, I have ever heard that expression. Haha it’s terrible.

          I appreciate a good ‘cleave’ too, Sarca, but in truth it matters little compared to other things. Like, you know, being able to, like, carry a conversation? Right? Like, with words and opinions and stuff? Ya know? (smacks gum)

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        10. I still have a cassette tape…my God I should really rip it to mp3…my sister’s best friend recorded the sound of her dad farting. It went on for like…ever…loud as a bullhorn.

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        11. LMAO I’m sorry, farts are still funny.
          K’s family can fart everyone into oblivion, hilariously.
          My sister could always lay them like a bullhorn. There is the legend of the 30-second fart, where I awoke in the night to the sound of my sister’s fart and it was loud, and went on forever. My sister was asleep the whole time.

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        12. Some people might find those gross, but they’re great funny stories to me. It’s like the stories the are derived from the hirabo gummy bears that are a natural laxative. Hilarious!

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        13. Exactly. And I won’t get tooooo graphic. But I do have to be able to relay what my poor wife (in the same room as me) and my visiting mother-in-law (in another room down the hall) had to experience.

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  5. I remember this album cover, and maybe heard the single, but I can’t say as I ever heard this entire album.

    Am I correct in remembering a bunch of singles for this album, with that same clear taped titles look to it? Purple cases and thin onion skin-like paper inside?

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      1. You know, in thinking about it further, I think that right now, the only Cult I own is the stuff Mike has given me! But I looked it up and the Pure Cult was on the short-list in my To Find list for Taranna this year anyway! And now I may be looking for more, too…

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    1. I know the singles you are thinking of. I may have one of those, still. Those were from a series of Cult singles on EMI, if you bought them all you could put them in a nice box. I had one copy come in, with box, but I couldn’t offer him enough.

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