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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cults - Cults: B+

If you were paying attention to the “blogosphere” (demeaning term, hate using it) during 2010, you probably heard Cults’s “Go Outside” at some point. It was a pleasant, catchy song built upon reverbed drums and guitar with female vocals that immediately brought to mind 60’s girl group pop, an influence not unfamiliar to many emerging artists this decade. However, the track gained so much notoriety, that Cults were signed to a major label by the end of the year, and their debut has now been released under Columbia. You will find that track that has become so ubiquitous with the group nestled into the second slot on this release.

Bordering “Go Outside”, you will find the two lead singles for Cults. “Abducted” starts the album off nicely with some excellent, catchy vocal melodies from both singer Madeline Follin and guitarist Brian Oblivion. The track equates heartbreak to abduction, Follin playing the abducted with a vocal line that floats over the arrangements and Oblivion playing the abductor with a deep, slacker croon. It’s a great track and the highlight of Cults right off the bat. After “Go Outside” is “You Know What I Mean”, a standard ballad with vocals reminiscent of Tennis singer Alaine Moore but with more shrill menace. These three songs that begin Cults are fine singles that can be enjoyed for both their froth and artistic integrity.

However, as Cults moves farther and farther from those first three tracks, one gets the feeling that the group is stranding themselves into open waters. Unfortunately, it becomes exceedingly clear that the album is woefully frontloaded, as the tracks that follow “You Know What I Mean” are not particularly memorable; at best, they are concurrent pastiche of that girl group sound so well established in the album’s first third. “Never Saw the Point” has the bells and percussion of a minor Gnarls Barkley track and “Bumper” is refreshing for Oblivion again assuming vocal duties, but, as it goes on, Cults starts to sound less like a distinct group and more like a Best Coast with chimes. Once those singles end, Cults have trouble maintaining many memorable hooks, so their songs end up being enjoyable for their transient beauty, and little is remembered of them once the album ends.

Closer, “Rave On”, epitomizes this aesthetic. While still a modestly enjoyable, the track use the same chord progression as “Abducted”, and that lack of creativity is not lost on the listener. While Cults has some great songs on it, it shows that Cults need to refine their sound more in the mode of hooks rather than just slight variations on a sound. Follin likes to sing about running away and escape, and even that thematic repetition gets tiresome by the album’s end. My suggestion would be to get “Abducted” and the singles if you haven’t already heard them. Otherwise, I might skip Cults, as it is a flawed attempt for the group to form a solid sound.


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