Jamie Stewart

REVIEW: The Cult – Dreamtime / Live at the Lyceum (Japanese import)

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.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: The Cult – Sonic Temple (1989)

By special request of reader Wardy!

THE CULT – Sonic Temple (1989 Polygram limited edition hologram cover)

The Cult went into 1989’s Sonic Temple with nothing but promise.  New hotshot producer Bob Rock had struck it rich with Kingdom Come the year before.  Critics raved about his drum sound and other Zeppish tendencies on that album.  The Cult themselves were following up the incendiary Electric album, a stripped back record produced by Rick Rubin.  Anticipation ran high.  Considering that Robert Plant was quoted as saying that “Led Zeppelin is being continued by The Mission and The Cult”, I think a few people expected Sonic Temple to be the second coming.

Some fans hoping for another Electric or even another Love were disappointed by the mainstream rock direction of Sonic Temple.  Mainstream though it may be, Sonic Temple burns with the same middle finger up attitude of old Cult, just with the edges sanded off and sound enhanced by Bob Rock.  Rock’s production is similar to that of Dr. Feelgood released the same year.

You couldn’t ask for a better double-whammy than the opening salvo of “Sun King” and “Fire Woman”.  Even though The Cult were able to score a major hit with “Fire Woman” it’s still a tough little song based on a killer Billy Duffy guitar hook.  Both songs have aged well, as has “American Horse”, a slow Cult stomper.  I love the interplay on the verse riff between Duffy and bassist Jamie Stewart.  Stewart, a member since the band became The Cult, departed after this tour and moved to Canada.  Here he produced a few up and coming bands such as Gut-Sonic.  I think Jamie Stewart was the underappreciated Cult member.  His grooves (with session drummer Mickey Curry*) are a part of Sonic Temple‘s drive.

The big hit ballad was the dramatic “Edie (Ciao Baby)”.  Here they really benefit from Bob Rock’s lush rock production values.  Strings and acoustics ring crisp.  Add in a howlin’ Ian Astbury chorus and you have one hell of a song.

“Sweet Soul Sister” was the third single (after “Fire Woman” and “Edie”) and another killer Cult song it is. You can really hear Bob Rock’s touch on the layered vocals for better or worse. It’s a touch that I find dated today, but the bare organ intro is magical! Unfortunately it gets dicey after “Sweet Soul Sister”.

I wouldn’t call any of the songs that follow “Sweet Soul Sister” poor or filler. None of them lack hooks or massive Billy Duffy guitars. Yet compared to the first side of the album, everything from “Soul Asylum” onwards fails to ignite like that. There are certainly lots of memorable moments, such as the breakneck “New York City” featuring an Iggy Pop cameo. It’s a good song, and so is “Soldier Blue” and the rest of the tunes…just not as good as side one. (By the way, if any song on Sonic Temple recalls Led Zeppelin, it the massive “Soul Asylum”, which is basically The Cult’s “Kashmir”.)

SONIC TEMPLE_0002

My copy of Sonic Temple is a limited edition with mirrored hologram cover. I bought it from this guy Todd, who worked at the HMV store at the mall. A buddy of mine had a crush on his sister, or something, and that’s how I knew him. He treated me right when I shopped at his store, and I returned the favour when he sold his stuff to us. That’s how I got this, and also how I got the Sonic Temple Collection 3 CD set complete with mail-away box.

I still like Sonic Temple today, but I only love side one.

3.75/5 stars

*Eric Singer played on the demos, released as part of the Rare Cult Demos box set.  Ex-Tori Amos drummer Matt Sorum appeared in the music videos and played on the tour, where he fatefully met Guns N’ Roses, and the rest was history.

REVIEW: The Cult – Pure Cult: The Singles 1984-1995

THE BEST FUCKING COLLABORATION WEEK EVER

For today’s installment of THE BEST FUCKING COLLABORATION WEEK EVER, Aaron and I are actually reviewing different albums.  Sort of.  He’s doing Pure Cult: For Rockers, Ravers, Lovers, and Sinners.  I’m doing Pure Cult: The Singles 1984-1995.  Same album, different versions thereof with slightly different tracklistings.  Dig in!

Aaron: The Cult – Pure Cult: For Rockers, Ravers, Lovers, and Sinners

PURE CULTTHE CULT – Pure Cult: The Singles 1984-1995 (2000 Beggars Banquet)

The original 1993 Pure Cult was great.  It didn’t need to be updated only seven years later, but given the chance to remaster and repackage something must be irresistible to cigar-chewing execs.*  The remastering ushered in a series of Cult reissues, coinciding with a reunion tour.  There was also an issue with an unauthorized UK compilation from 1996 called High Octane Cult.  That CD, which contained an exclusive new song called “In the Clouds”, was discontinued and replaced by this new Pure Cult, which re-released “In the Clouds” on its tracklist.

“In the Clouds” is a smashing song, heavy as a really heavy thing, from 1995.  It was recorded for a potential followup to 1994’s The Cult, but released on High Octane Cult when the band split up.  The sound points towards the heavy metal direction of 2001’s Beyond Good and Evil.  The hard hitting snare of drummer Garret is deliciously snappy.   Although “In the Clouds” isn’t particularly memorable on its own, I love when the Cult go really heavy.   That makes this an unsung classic.

As for Pure Cult: The Singles, “She Sells Sanctuary” still opens affairs as it did on the old Pure Cult.  It remains as shimmery as it was in the glow of the 1980’s.  Ian’s irresistible howl doesn’t remind me of Morrison one bit actually, but let’s not forget Billy Duffy and his big white Gibson.  Duffy has always been about his guitar sound, which changes from album to album.  It seems his guitar sets the tone for the album, and “She Sells Sanctuary” benefits from his echo-laden Edge-isms.


The first six songs on the CD are the same running order as the original.  I have always been fond of the Cult’s Sonic Temple period, and “Fire Woman” has aged remarkably well.  Say what you will about Bob Rock, his production has stood up on this track.  Back then, he was trashed for glossing up the Cult’s sound too much.  By today’s standards, this is a sparse production!  But if you like it basic, “Lil’ Devil” produced by Rick Rubin is excactly what you need.  The Electric period is universally celebrated by Cult diehards as a high point, and you can see why on “Lil’ Devil”.

I dig Dreamtime‘s “Spiritwalker”, but I think “The Witch” is really cool.  Produced once again by Rick Rubin but going in a completely different direction, “The Witch” brought electronic dance beats to the Cult giving them an industrial edge.  “The Witch” was released on the soundtrack to a movie called Cool World in 1992, but it received wider exposure the following year on the original Pure Cult.  Regardless of a strong chart performance for the song, the Cult chose not to go with Rick Rubin for their next album and instead returned to Bob Rock!  “The Witch” remains a cool experiment and a great song.

Love‘s “Revolution” is still one of my favourite Cult ballads, and it helps you come down from the rush that is “The Witch”.  The “Love Removal Machine” and “Rain” keep the classic momentum brewing, but this is the first deviation from the original Pure Cult running order.  “Wild Hearted Son”, a hard rocker from 1991, has been moved to the end of the album, though it originally fell after “Revolution”.  Then “In the Clouds” takes us fully into heavy modern Cult territory.  1994’s “Coming Down (Drug Tongue)” represents the alterna-Cult that responded to the grunge onslaught.  These two newer songs don’t replace any others at this point on Pure Cult; rather they are inserted between “Rain” and “Edie (Ciao Baby)”.  Ceremony‘s “Heart of Soul” follows “Edie” for over eight minutes of power balladry, but since it’s The Cult we are going to let it slide.

The song “Love” has been deleted from the running order, and we go straight into the classic “Wild Flower”.  Every bit as good as “Love Removal Machine”, these hits are still slamming today.  “Star” from 1994 is unnecessarily inserted into the track list here, a forgotten single that nobody really cares about.  “Go West” and “Resurrection Joe” from Dreamtime are flipped in order; now “Resurrection Joe” comes first.  I like the jittery early Cult, but it’s stunning how they change from album to album.  “Sun King” is an interesting choice from Sonic Temple, though I do love the song, it wasn’t that well known as a single.  “Wild Hearted Son” is dropped in here, in single edit version without the intro.  Finally “Sweet Soul Sister” closes the CD, in its music video mix which is a nice track to have since it wasn’t even on the CD single.  Unfortunately the original ass-kicking closer “Earth Mofo” has been deleted!  That is truly a shame, since it is such a rush of a rock song.

Ultimately Pure Cult: The Singles 1984-1995 has one more track overall compared to the original release.  Unfortunately I don’t think it’s quite as good.

4.5/5 stars

* This CD was followed by the release of the 7-disc box set Rare Cult (a review of which is coming this year), and a compilation called Best of Rare Cult!

Monday: QUIET RIOT – Metal Health
Tuesday: DANKO JONES – Born A Lion
Wednesday: Aaron’s Black Crowes B-sides