10 REVIEWS OF THE NEW CULTS ALBUM – 1: in real time
by Everett True
This is my review of the debut album from Cults, Cults, released on Lily Allen’s Columbia imprint, In The Name Of.
Somewhere around the third track, ‘You Know What I Mean’, this album really kicks in.
Somewhere around the fourth track, the first single ‘Most Wanted’, this album becomes indispensable. I swoon, and then I swoon some more, gulping down water backwards.
Somewhere around the fifth track, ‘Walk At Night’, I’m starting to think of taking back my cargo of Lesley Gore B-sides to Bristol and trading them in for just one glimpse at Cults. This feeling doesn’t last too long, that would be absurd – just for the three minutes or so this track lasts. It lasts long enough for it to disquiet me thoroughly. Kids are screaming in the next room. Five kids. All screaming. The sound punctures this upbeat love-in of a record and reminds me why I vowed never to listen to vinyl again. I can cheat. This entire Cults album is, so far, like listening to vinyl. It’s like owning a transistor radio playing all your favourite femme-pop moments from 2005 and 1965 in 2011.
By the time the sixth track, ‘Never Heal Myself’, comes on, I am praying to the ghost of Ellie Greenwich that this album becomes the biggest album in the world this Brisbane winter, that it sweeps everything beard-shaped and hollow-formed before it in an unstoppable tide of girl group melodies and lush, slippery beats, and reverb motherfucking harmonies, and while it’s doing that, it takes Best Coast and The Vaccines and all the other dull pretenders with it.
By the time the seventh track, ‘Oh My God’, heals everything I’m thinking … haven’t we met somewhere before? I mean, really. Bangs alive, I’d even give up my secret plan with Kate Nash to form a summer pop group that only covers early Lush outtakes to hear another song like this. I’ve caved in. I don’t know what words I’m typing, and I don’t care. There’s one screaming surly kid in the bedroom now, and everyone else is playing fair. If I was still DJ-ing in Istanbul, I would do a Tricky (who once showed up in Seattle with one record under his arm – a copy of the first Specials album) and show up with this. This alone. What else do you need?
If I lived at Pitchfork and wanted to reduce emotion to base numbers … but I don’t and I don’t. I’m hoping that perhaps I’ll fall quickly out of love with this so I can move on. I’m hoping but I’m doubting it.
The ninth track, ‘Bad Things’, is Monster Women good. I swear! It’s Shangri-Las ’65 good. I swear! It’s even as good as Neverever or Camera Obscura or that album I have a secret regard for but would never admit to in public (Panda Bear)! Damn it all. Wouldn’t it be so great if something so obviously corporate-backed and hipster-fed and maybe tinged with a bit of post-“Beach-Boys-on-a-skipping-CD” Animal Collective coitus turned out to be amazing after all? I think there’s some talking over the lush, lush harmonics. I hope there is. I don’t want to be imagining heaven on top of heaven. Funny how the two phrases ‘Phil Spector’ and ‘lo-fi aesthetic’ frequently get mentioned in the same sentence. It’s because people have no idea whatsoever what lo-fi means these days.
Fact one: the Cults debut album is not lo-fi in any shape, nor does it aspire to be.
Fact two: the Cults debut album is marvelous but … oh … imagine how much more marvelous it’d be with Phil Spector producing in his prime (the fifth Ramones album). I’m beginning to love the shamelessness of this Shane Stoneback producer guy though. He taps into all the obvious conduits, and – damn, isn’t that what major league producers should be doing? There’s plenty enough love left over to handle that.
The 10th track, ‘Bumper’, is ‘Give Him A Great Big Kiss’ [The Shangri-Las] sang as a male/female duet, the relevant line repeated over and again. In fact, it’s so ‘Give Him A Great Big Kiss’ I can’t help but tingle all over – but as imagined by someone imagining they’re in She And Him (especially the male vocal), only super saturated. Damn. Sure damn. Yes I’m jealous.
The final track … I can’t type any more. It’s too sad. The final track.
POSTSCRIPT: I couldn’t give a shit about the hype, or media manipulation. I’m a big fan of media manipulation when it comes to bands I like.