The Cult are a band that never really stood still– after evolving from pretty much a goth band with the pomp of psychedelia into a straight ahead hard rock band, they kept moving, and their eponymous album (their sixth overall) was something altogether different– a “modern rock” album of sorts, embracing some of the ideals of the exploding grunge movement from Seattle but not joining fully with it. One thing that’s obvious– playing this album today, 12 years after it’s release, it sounds as fresh as it did when it came out.
The response from the fan base was about as expected– one thing I’ve noticed over the years is that whenever an artist achieves commercial success, change is view negatively. And this album is very different, but it’s quite honestly also very good. The songwriting is top notch– diverse, explosive and energetic, Ian Astbury’s vocals are full of life and energy and guitarist Billy Duffy seems equally inspired by the new setting to perform in.
The only really common thread throughout the album is a high level of energy, the pieces move from mood to mood and sound to sound, whether it be angry and explosive (opener “Gone”), ecstatic and energetic (“Star”), a slow burn buildup to explosion (“Black Sun”) or positively mournful and troubled (“Saints Are Down”). There’s a couple pieces that misfire a bit (“Naturally High” has a rather irritating chorus, “Be Free” is kind of hokey), but all in all, the album is fantastic.
Truthfully, “The Cult” is so different from everything the band had done prior that it was pretty much guaranteed to be released to a negative reaction, but it’s an album that deserves a careful chance. In my assessment, it’s the only thing they’ve done that equals the power and inventiveness of “Love”. Highly recommended.