I blame my brother, he went through a Goth phase at school in about 1987; I was just entering a hard rock/heavy metal phase and the one common ground we developed was The Cult. After resisting the jangly goth lite of ‘Love’, which I now, er, love, I gave in to ‘Electric’ with it’s array of classic rock riffs and soon became a mega fan/collector of all things Cult. I was overjoyed when ‘Sonic Temple’ achieved mega success whilst sounding like only The Cult can sound. They were the first band I ever saw live, well the second if you count their support band Claytown Troupe, at Wembley Arena on the Sonic Temple tour, and I went on to see them another 16 times (I think!) – the only reason I went to Guns n Roses at Milton Keynes Bowl was because The Cult were supporting. Every time I saw them they were fucking awesome; working the stage as hard as hell whatever the crowd; even the lukewarm half sized crowd the last time I caught them in Brazil (2006?) were treated to a relentless performance. IMHO Ian Astbury is the best rock vocalist of a generation – nobody but nobody sounds like him, he has a uniquely rich voice of superb depth that adds a real emotional edge, while Billy Duffy is a cruelly underrated guitarist that can play pretty much anything from badass rock to the ethereal. The Cult are a unique band that never really conformed and could never be pigeon holed and here’s ten reasons why you gotta love em.
One of the first songs to really show the band’s potential, from the atmospheric intro to the scuttering riffs, it offers a glimpse of what Billy Duffy can do as a guitar player, what the band can do as songwriters and primarily how even with some very familiar elements they manage to sound unique.
The most obvious rocker from the album of the same name, it’s got groove, it’s got feeling and is a showcase for some smoking guitar from Billy as he plays multiple breaks of ever increasing intensity behind Aster’s slow boiling vocal. “Gonna drive away in a big fast car….”
She Sells Sanctuary
This is the song that made them and stands up as a classic until today. I can’t really pinpoint one thing that makes it so good, maybe it’s that it sounds like no one else, maybe it’s the instantly familiar opening chords or the riff structure, or maybe its the multiple hooks; whatever, it works and is a master class in song writing, the 7 minute Long Version from the 12″, with the vaguely ironic clapping at the end, being nothing short of superb.
Love Trooper/Zap City
The Cult had a turbulent time making their third album, Electric; infamously scrapping the Manor Sessions with Steve Brown in favour of a stripped down, rocked up sound with Rick Rubin. The final result worked and both versions are very listenable (despite the god awful ‘Bad Fun’), but two tracks left off the final version of Electric, and rightly so because they don’t really fit, though subsequently used as b-sides, are two little gems from those initial sessions, Love Trooper and Zap City. They are pretty straight forward rockers but there was enough of Love in them to bridge the gap to Electric, and here’s the thing, they stand up as highly listenable until today.
Wolf Child’s Blues
Recorded live in the studio New Year’s Eve 1987 – I fuckin love this song – there’s just something so raw about it. Killer.
On Sonic Temple Bob Rock helped them marry up their Led Zeppelin aspirations and the atmosphere that Rick Rubin had stripped away to come up with an enormous sounding record the Americans went mad for, and Fire Woman was the perfect lead off; it rocked, had a big ass chorus, some great riffs, the instantly recognisable intro and was just enormous. Winner!
The Cult’s eponymous album failed miserably but further listening reveals it to be seriously underrated. The album came out at a difficult time for rock bands, if you weren’t Grunge or Britpop you were going nowhere, as this record did, but in a different context listening to it today, which I have done frequently, there are some great tracks – ‘Gone’ is angry as shit with some seriously hard guitaring from BD while ‘Real Grrrl’ is a superbly structured song brimming with power, energy and emotion.
Love Removal Machine
Although L.R.M is by no means the Cult’s greatest song, it is the best show closer in their armoury; partly because it’s got some groove from the tambourine shakes and the rumbling bass but mainly because you know what’s coming in the frantic closing section; the song rocks back and forth, Billy teases with a cool solo, the Stones-esque riff ebbs and flows, then…bam “Look out here she comes” – “Shake it don’t break it baby” and it’s swirling mosh pit chaos – I should know, I was in it every time.
When I started writing this I didn’t realise The Cult had new material about to drop, lets call it a happy coincidence! Check out killer new track ‘Dark Energy’ right here:https://youtu.be/pSDnqJB3Wc8