Pure Cult

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


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

REVIEW: The Cult – Live Cult (Marquee London MCMXCI)


THE CULT – Live Cult (Marquee London MCMXCI) (Reissue)

This double live album was once the “Holy Grail” of Cult collectibles.  It was originally a limited release involving a confusion of two separate discs, mail orders and bonus CDs in some versions of Pure Cult.  Whatever, it’s been reissued (both CDs, the complete set) at retail…and now everybody can hear why The Cult went on hiatus at the beginning of the 90’s.  It’s just not that good.

Like almost all live albums, this one has its pros and its cons. To me, the biggest con is that The Cult had dug themselves into this vaccuous, stiff, homogenic, generic rock/metal sound. For example, the cuts from Electic, in particular “Wild Flower”, are robbed of all their energy and groove. The rhythm section was new, but did consist of the late, great Michael Lee (later of Page & Plant). But these were not the same guys who recorded Love, or Electric, in fact they had never played on a Cult album. Perhaps that is why these songs don’t sound like The Cult that we know, but some early 90’s rock metal hybrid version of The Cult.

Another con is that Astbury was pretty hoarse that night. However in a sense that is also a pro — the liner notes proudly state that there are no overdubs or edits, that this is “as it was” on that night. And I will take a genuine live album with a hoarse singer over any overdubbed live album, every single time. In fact one entire track (“Amplification Breakdown”) is dedicated to the space between two songs while Duffy gets an amp fixed!


The track selection was adventurous, with lots of songs from Dreamtime and Love. “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon” is played live for the first time ever, according to Ian. They threw in a B-side (“Zap City”) and only a couple songs from their then-latest record Ceremony: They studiously avoided the too-mellow singles, and opted for lesser known rocking album tracks.

While this album was important as a document of a pre-hiatus Cult, before they reinvented themselves in 1994, it is a shame that the band was sounding so generically “rock” at the time, and little like the classic Cult. Perhaps that is why Ian and Billy felt like they had to reinvent themselves.

3/5 stars

More of THE CULT at mikeladano.com:

Weapon of Choice (iTunes exclusive release) + Capsule 1 + “Lil’ Devil” (double 12″ EP)