Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cults- Cults REVIEW

Cults first turned heads earlier this year with the release of their Go Outside 7”. Hailing from Brooklyn, the band seemed to disappear into anonymity for several months before announcing their self-titled first album would be streaming on NPR before it’s physical release June 7. The result is a collection of hard-edged sweetness punctuated by the echoey, Siren-esque vocals of Madeline Follin to go with Brian Oblivion’s fuzzy guitar hooks- as well as a xylophone cameo and the usual Pep Rally percussion. It can be easy for the sounds of Post-Homage to get cheeky in a hurry. Just ask The Raveonettes- whose potential seems currently stunted by the lo-fi distorted self-awareness that followed their successful debut- 2008’s Lust Lust Lust. Cults, however, is an exercise in wistful innocence with nary a wink or nudge.

An addictive blend of indifferent brood/rock laced with powdered sugar, Cults’ self-titled debut album feels as if it was recorded in a haunted drive-in theater. It reinvents the wide-eyed harmonies of 1960s Midwestern Americana by eerily adhering to ancient principles within a modern era- the results are as toe-tappingly wonderful as they are sinister. The listener anticipates a casual 21st century self-referential irony with this type of genre exercise. Yet the band refuses to break the fourth wall. Instead they indulge the darkness beneath the seamless facade- all the while with a straight-faced effervescence. Cults is an album that rewards those who listen closely (eg -the origin of the album samples preceding “Go Outside”, the vague sense of restless edginess which sneaks it’s way into Follin’s vocals). This is substance over style- only the substance is a fierce commitment to style, leaving the listener with a ghostly vision of meta-nostalgia. And if that sounds convoluted for an album full of sockhop ditties, it’s okay- because Cults have sugarcoated their ambition in accessibility. With a tone so faultlessly Malt Shoppe/The Archies that it becomes almost Lynchian, Dirty Beaches’ Badlands would be an ideal double feature.

- Fr. Jones

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