The Cult, Love – Retro CD Review

October 18, 1985 saw the release of The Cult’s Love album, and it is a loving album indeed, at least to my soul, anyhow. The Cult were established in 1983, when guitarist Billy Duffy (formerly of Theatre of Hate) joined up with Ian Astbury’s Southern Death Cult, changed the band’s name to Death Cult, and, eventually, The Cult. Love was the band’s second release, and as time has proven, it became a staple of the alternative rock sound that endures to this day.

This album’s opening track is titled “Nirvana”, and it is certainly better than anything THAT band ever recorded. From the opening click of the drumsticks counting off the tempo, through the flanging of the distorted post-punk/Goth/blues guitar riffs, to the soulful voice of Astbury, the song is a tribute to music. And the lyrics are written exactly about that, the beauty of music. The only drawback I can find to this is that it starts to noodle about three and a half minutes into the song… an issue that I will come back to in a little while.

“Big Neon Glitter” is big, just like the song says, and utilizes the big beat that we would later hear on the releases Electric and Sonic Temple. The guitar work here is a little bit different from those albums, though, and almost a bit more original. Although Duffy may or may not have been a little less technically proficient during this time (who doesn’t improve over time?), his sound was definitely unique. His guitar style has been described as “walking the line between Jimmy Hendrix and U2’s The Edge”, and I’d say that’s just about right, on this album, anyhow. “Love“, the title track, reminds me of later songs as well, with that walking beat, stop-start guitar, and the characteristic wail of Ian Astbury. You could definitely tell where these guys were going with their sound; there is an absolute PRESENCE of the Southern blues-based rock in their material, with an overtone of Goth-influenced new wave sound at times. Seems like a hard combination to make, but with The Cult, it comes natural. You hear that perfect synthesis of sound on tracks like “Rain” and (of course everyone’s favorite) “She Sells Sanctuary” as well.

You can hear the influence that this band has had on bands like Seattle’s Black Nite Crash, SF’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, early material by the Oxford band Ride, and other shoegazer-type bands including last month’s Jesus and Mary Chain, in their Darklands period, especially when you hear the opening riff and drum-kick of “Hollow Man”.

The only issue I have with this album is the length of some of the songs. As I previously mentioned, the song “Nirvana” seems like it could have been shortened; it’s almost as if the band were at a loss what to do. “Hollow Man”, although a good song, at 4:46 feels a bit long; so does “Revolution”. “Revolution” actually lets you down; with a name like that, I’m expecting something raw, aggressive, and punchy, but all I got was the proverbial tee-shirt. The album closer, “Black Angel”, seemed overwritten, too. This track is also where Astbury’s voice starts to fail, especially toward the end of the tune, a section whose length could have been reduced, in my opinion. The only longer song that feels right is “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon”, whose lyrics are basic and hearken to a spiritual side you find in much of Astbury’s writing.

The epic of this album, of course, is “She Sells Sanctuary”. This is still the best track on the album, although “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon” is a VERY CLOSE second. We have covered every inch of the album and come out smelling like roses. Let’s rate it, shall we?

OVERALL RATING: On a scale from one to ten, ten being highest, I would rate this a 7.75; the only detractions being 1) the length of some of the songs and the fact that a couple of them just run a little long, and that 2) I’m just not a fan of the song “Revolution”. Any song with that sort of title should not be so misleading.