Cults – Static (Columbia)
By Scott Creney
Remember all the fun we had with this band a couple of years ago? Everyone weighing in on the album. It’s funny, I still like Cults’ first album, at least in a I-don’t-mind-when-I-hear-it type way. The band could write some good hooks, and the singer could, depending on my mood, trigger all kinds of internal wellsprings of emotion.
So I come to Static as something of a fan.
Hey, did you read that Pitchfork interview with them a couple of weeks ago? Damn, that was a good read – crystal meth, bath salts, DMT, breakups, Japan sabbaticals, depression. Anyway, the block quotes below are both taken from that article.
Don’t worry, none of that’s in the album. Cults lyrics remain unspecific as ever, lacking in details to the point where I can imagine legions of creative-writing professors weeping, but then they’re appeal has always been rooted in melody/sound.
Speaking of sound, Static is bathed in that same shimmery haze that marks a lot of commercial indie records these days. Can any audio engineers out there tell me which ProTools button you push to make that happen? Are there any other buttons on ProTools? It’s not that I hate it, necessarily. I’m just curious.
Anyway, after an initial elegiac hymn, the album gets rolling with ‘I Can Hardly Make You Mine’.
They had me for the first minute, the way they knocked that main riff out of the park. Cults are back motherfuckers. They are here to kick ass (by the standards of Cults, of course). But the rest of the song seems unfocused, content to coast. ‘We’ve Got It’ inverts the process, starting vague and aimless before kicking into a compelling chorus. But this problem plagues the album throughout. A slackening in hooks coupled with a creative stasis is hard to get excited about.
Here’s another one. You tell me.
I blame the industry, its short-sightedness, as much as the band. It’s been over two years since the last Cults album. That’s just too much time for a record that sounds so much like the first. I never even got to see Cults live, because every time they came near Athens it seemed like they were supporting some shitty band in Atlanta and tickets were in the $50 range. In my opinion, the band should’ve been out headlining their own shows for $12-$15 a night and building a loyal audience that might last. Instead they were kept out on tour for a year-and-a-half playing the same ten songs over and over again.
“Touring is too much fun, but it’s also super-depressing,” Follin says. “You’re literally doing the same exact thing every night, and it’s hard to keep everything fresh when you’ve been doing that for a year and a half. You get lonely.”
I agree with this sentiment 100%. The music industry chews bands up by boring them to death. As if opening for Foster The People for a month wasn’t always going to be a waste of Cults’ time. Music has become a job for Cults. And most of the time on Static it sounds like it.
I also note that a character in Infinite Jest continuously refers to cocaine as Too Much Fun.
Diving head first into solitude, Oblivion took a solo vacation to Japan, which included some extracurricular chemical experimenting– specifically, with synthetic bath salts, crystal meth, and DMT. His Enter the Void period came to a close, though, following the realization of his outsider status in the foreign land: “People I thought were my friends would introduce me to other Japanese people as ‘gaijin,’ which means ‘he who will never be one of us.’ It was dark. I was like, ‘What am I doing here?'”
Now that sounds like the recipe for an interesting album. Cults have the potential, as artists if not as people, to make a third album that will blow everything they’ve done up until now out of the water. Madeline Follin can sing pop melodies with a rare soulfulness. Under the right circumstances, and with the right songs, they could still make a classic. More blood. More anger. More desperation. They’ve already lived it, now if they can just let it into their art. All is not lost, just temporarily missing.
Static as in staying in one place. Static as in unable to move. Static as in poor reception.