THE CULT – Dreamtime (Originally 1984) / Live at the Lyceum (Originally 1986) (2006 2 CD Beggars Banquet Japanese set)
This was a bit of a surprise to me. Once I got this Japanese pressing in my hot little hands and opened it up, out popped two CDs! This was not advertized on the case. (Well, maybe it was in Japanese, but I can’t read Japanese!) The second CD is the legendary and extremely hard to find live album, Live At The Lyceum. For that live album alone, this Japanese import is worth the price of admission.
The debut album by The Cult is surprisingly solid, a fully-formed vision of the band with complete and catchy songs. For a long time this album was hard to get and all but unknown to “new” fans of the band who thought that it started with Love. This was rectified in the 90’s with numerous reissues, plus many of these songs found their way onto the Pure Cult compilations.
Dreamtime has a punk-like energy. The drums (by Nigel Preston) hit hard. “Horse Nation” and “Spiritwalker” open Dreamtime with a powerful one-two punch. “Gimmick” has soaring vocals with stabbing guitars, coupled with a fast beat that gets the heart racing. The title track has a similar accelerated pace. The Cult are also known for their slower, darker, macabre side. “83rd Dream”, “Bad Medicine Waltz” and “Butterflies” certainly cover that. Dreamtime sounds like an angry young band unwilling to compromise.
Yet tracks like “Go West” had tremendous commercial potential. Memorable, punchy melodies and Ian Astbury singing with all the panache he can muster. “A Flower in the Desert” could be called a ballad if you like. A dour, dusky one. An impactful “Rider in the Snow” has some excellent guitar shimmer.
Gladly, I have found that there is not one weak track on this album. The songs are more challenging and not as instantaneous as Love, but when Astbury’s one-of-a-kind vocals mix with Duffy’s angular guitars, it sounds like the Cult. Period. From aggressive rock songs to mournful dirges like “Bad Medicine Waltz”, this album has a bit of everything that the Cult would later become, in embryonic form. This set contains just the album, the original 10 songs, and none of the B-sides. Don’t fret however as those songs can be found on the Rare Cult set.
Although I got Live at The Lyceum (the original abbreviated cassette which only had eight of the 15 songs) in my teens, I was a stranger to early Cult. This raw live disc (which opens with a bit of Wendy Carlos’ score from The Shining) includes all the songs from the 1983 Death Cult EP: “Christians”, “Horse Nation”, “Ghost Dance” and “Brothers Grimm”. It also includes the blistering Death Cult single “God’s Zoo” live, and the B-side “Bone Bag”. Going even further back, “Moya” predates Billy Duffy, being an early single by Ian’s band Southern Death Cult. It slams with vital energy. As good as this whole live album is, “God’s Zoo” has to be the highlight.
Astbury is as combative as ever, and the crowd eats it up. The energy of this live album is astounding. I strongly encourage you to look for a Japanese copy of this CD for the live album — it is totally worth your time and money to do so. Lyceum was the second Cult album I ever owned (shame it was just a cassette) and I have very fond memories of learning about the Cult’s history by playing that tape over and over.
This Japanese CD release has the original, superior cover art. With the full 15 song version of Live at the Lyceum included, it’s the standout version to own. What an album, and what a live disc to boot. Dig into the Cult.