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The Cult: Still Sonic

June 16, 2011

There’s going to be a new Cult album this fall, two years after Ian Astbury notoriously proclaimed physical media dead before the veteran band embarked on its Capsule program of downloadable/USB stick EPs. I bought the first one, featuring a new song called Every Man And Woman Is A Star, and it rocked. I tried to buy the second but ran into difficulties, which made me wish Ian would re-think his position on actual CDs. Luckily, he now listens to me, and you know why.

My relationship with The Cult goes back to the very beginning, and I stick with them, because they’re my age, and their music reflects what I like, even when it changes, which it does. When I had beads and a crimper, they were playing swirly songs about desert winds and dark nights. Later, when leather happened, the boys re-discovered AC/DC at the same time I did. And in the ’90s, we all cut our hair, bought T-shirts with car logos on them and started thinking Butch Vig was on the right track. By the 2000s, we’d said so long to that crap and just wanted good, solid guitar hard rock, and didn’t mind so much when the old jeans didn’t fit no more.

I’m glad to hear the Cult is returning. Not that they ever went away for long; through decades of infighting, alcohol, mood swings, power clashes and big bad hair, founders Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy have always managed to drift back together. But it occurred to me this week, while reading about the new album, that they’ve managed to stay with a cohesive rhythm section for the first time in their careers — in fact, for the first time, the band will release two CDs with the same bassist and drummer: Chris Wyse (his third tour of duty) and John Tempesta (his second).

Raymond Taylor Smith, Nigel Preston, Mark Brzezicki, Les Warner, Jamie Stewart, Mickey Curry, Charley Drayton, Kinley Wolfe, Craig Adams, Billy Morrissey, Scott Garrett, Michael Lee, Matt Sorum, Martyn LeNoble, Kid Chaos and tons of other characters have been in The Cult over the years, and I didn’t google that — I just know this shit. Craig Adams, in fact, has been in Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and The Cult, which makes him the one-two-three punch of weird ’80s post-punk psychedelic gothic hard rock, and I hope he knows that.

In a recent interview, Astbury said part of the problem over the years was trying to find that connection with a drummer that was lost when the late Nigel Preston was booted for drugs. Preston played on Dreamtime (the band’s first album) and on their breakthrough single She Sells Sanctuary before vanishing into the needle. Astbury, who clearly loved the man, said no drummer, no matter how talented, connected that way again.

Until, of course, the latest lineup, which Astbury pointed out is the most stable the band has ever had. You know, like I did, earlier, before I watched that interview.

Anyway, since the odd homemade Born Into This in 2007, all we’ve gotten from The Cult is some live stuff online, the two Capsule releases and Astbury’s amazing performance on Ghosts, featured on Slash’s solo CD from last year. If the new songs — Every Man and Woman is a Star, Siberia  and Embers — are indicators, The Cult has found a new and interesting position between the hard, hard rock of 2001’s Beyond Good And Evil and Born Into This: eclectic, rhythmic, not too headbangy, and more introspective.

Well, it comes with age.

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