james debate
james debate

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Genre Indie-Pop
Label In the Name of Columbia
Producers Cults, Shane Stoneback


Cults initially burst onto the scene about two years ago now amid a flurry of hype and an air of mystery. While their world beating hit Go Outside made the rounds online and eventually on our televisions and radio (I can't imagine there's anyone who hasn't heard it by now), not a whole lot was actually known about the band aside from that which was gleaned from a sparse Bandcamp webpage with just the one song listed.

Now that their debut album is finally complete it remains to be seen whether the band will manage to live up to the imposingly high standards they have set for themselves, or if this will simply be another disappointment as seen with similarly hyped bands like Tennis.

The band consists of two students from New York, Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin, but aside from that there is not a whole lot that is known about the people behind the music. Theirs' is a retro sound, mingling the style of modern indie-pop with the low-fi aesthetic of the 1960s. The trouble is, while this may have been all the rage back when Go Outside first came to our attention, low-fi boy/girl duos are quite common nowadays following the likes of the XX, Tennis and the Kills. Indeed Cults may be a victim of their own sluggishness in following up the hype.

For the most part though, the eponymous debut delivers everything that one could have hoped for, and in many ways exactly what was expected. Much of the album follows the same path as their breakout hit, with songs like Most Wanted and Oh My God refining the band's taste for melodies that are catchy but sweet, and lyrics that are wistful and universally sentimental. These lyrics are not high art, but they are evocative in their simplicity, as anyone who has heard Go Outside will agree.

That song evoked positivity and celebrated a passion for living, along with perhaps a twinge of teenage petulance; on the whole it's a conceit that the band sticks to through much of this album. As such you can expect to hear this one described frequently as a "summer album" as the cliché goes, and frankly I think few would argue with that.

Equally noteworthy are the songs where the band goes a bit more offbeat as with the infectious Never Saw the Point which makes use of some of the more euphoric stylings of modern pop as it crescendos up until its final moments.

But in this humble writer's opinion the best song on the album is its darkest sounding, but again deceptively positive track: You Know What I Mean. This powerful moment gives us a taste of what Sinead O'Connor or the Supremes might sound like with today's synth and modern sensibilities, except this is far better even than that.

So in the end this is one highly anticipated album which did not disappoint, even if it's not the world shattering debut that one might secretly have hoped it would be.

Must Listen
Go Outside

You Know What I Mean

Never Saw the Point

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