by Tamsin Chapman
This is pop. Sometimes good pop, though not yet great pop. And pop music is my only compass. But the thing about the purest pop is that actually I don’t want to hear a whole album of it, not unless every single track is a bellow-along, stamp-your-feet, grin-for-no-reason HIT. Pure pop’s medium is the 7” or download. The Shangri-Las are the best band of all time but can you name a Shangri-Las album? [Actually, yes - and it's one of my favourite albums ever. But I take your point - Ed]
Cults also think The Shangri-Las are the best band of all time, so they rip off ‘Give Him a Great Big Kiss’ wholesale on one track (‘Bumper’), and signpost their debt throughout with handclaps, rhythmic piano lines and melodies swathed in go-go boots and goo. I like them. I love pop music see. Some of these songs, especially ‘You Know What I Mean’, feel teen-deep. The most important songs in the world for one person, one summer, the soundtrack to heartache and anguish and glee. And yet …
Let’s think back to The Shangri-Las. Their songs had verses, choruses and middle eights. On all but a few of these songs, Cults simply repeat the same melody throughout. What about the words? The Shangri-Las had wit and sass and memorable talky bits, “He’s good bad, but he’s not evil”. Cults drench their vocals in reverb so the lyrics are rarely discernible, but when you hear them, they’re not worth waiting for. “I never saw the point in trying”, they sing, dead-eyed not doe-eyed. The Shangri-Las had edge, a switchblade hidden in their knickers, shadows under eyeliner. Cults are slick, cut from a template. There’s no menace. No desperation. They feel slightly unreal.
Cults are cute. A cute bunny rabbit of a band. But bunny rabbits fuck.
Cults are a couple. I’m guessing they fuck. But their music doesn’t fuck.
I’ll still probably end up buying it, mind.