A personality rich debut that transcends its timeworn influences.
Hari Ashurst 2011-05-18
Cults emerged little over a year ago, seemingly out of nowhere, with their wildfire hit Go Outside and a heavy whiff of mystery. At the time facts about the band were thin; there were two of them, and they were from Brooklyn. But now the band (backed by additional members) are back with names, faces and a debut album – out on Lily Allen’s In The Name Of imprint – with no more ambiguity to hide behind.
The cautionary tale of the one-hit wonder is well-worn and wisely Cults eschewed the easily doomed path of the quick follow-up and waited for things to cool down. After a period of quiet, recordings-wise, Cults return on new single – and album opener – Abducted with a false calm. In the opening strains of the song only a faraway jangle is audible as Madeline Follin sings the opening few lines in a hush, as if to only herself. A snare announces the song properly as it bursts into its first chorus with lurching organ and a propulsive break-beat; it feels like no time has elapsed at all since the summer of 2010.
The opening trio of songs is the strongest, but that’s not to say that the rest of the record trails off meekly; more that the starting gun of Abducted, Go Outside and You Know What I Mean is a tough bang for any band to follow. The latter of those songs is an instant highlight with its rasping vocal and 1960s sound. It has more bite than Go Outside ever hinted at and is steeped in melancholy, peaking on the last chorus as Follin almost screams, "I am afraid of the light, yeah you know what I mean".
Her voice sounds great above their warm, reverb-soaked sound, and the band plays it up as the focal point on songs like Never Saw the Point as her vocal melodies are doubled by glockenspiel – a trick Cults pull out again and again. Echoes of Motown and Phil Spector also loom large throughout this record, lending a wistful, nostalgic feel to proceedings – it’s a great warm-weather album. But despite the genre signifiers there’s more than enough personality of their own here for Cults to transcend both their blog hit wonder and the timeworn sound they lovingly homage.