October 18 – A Lot To ‘Love’ About Early Cult

Take a bit of retro-psychedelia, a cup of dressed-in-black Goth and a jig of heavy metal and you could end up with quite a sonic mess. Or if you’re lucky, you might get The Cult’s second album, Love, which came out this day in 1985.

The Cult had been around for several years by then, shedding words from their name as they shed the punkish sounds they originally liked. They’d been the Southern Death Cult, then the Death Cult and by ’85, just the Cult. No matter what the name, they always were centred around power singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy, who typically co-wrote their music. Bassist Jamie Stewart was the third part of their trio for this record, and although Big Country’s Mark Brzezicki wasn’t an official member, he did the drumming.

They’d signed to Beggar’s Banquet Records, the well-loved Goth indie label that boasted Bauhaus among other acts on its roster. But clearly The Cult wanted to be something more than just another “goth” act. Astbury in particular was fascinated by The Doors and by American Native Indian culture; one might surmise Duffy was fond of British hard rock ala Led Zep and Deep Purple.

Love was widely seen as a transitional record, spanning the gap between straight Goth and the neo-metal they made on Electric and later albums. The ten-ish songs sounded different enough to be interesting, yet still somewhat unified. And we say “ten-ish”, because it seemed like there were almost as many versions of it released as there were bats in a good ol’ gothic church belfrey. Several countries had a couple of bonus tracks, typically “Little Face” and “Judith”, while some tracks were omitted from certain Asian markets, which in turn may have had an early version of “Edie” (which would be a hit on their Sonic Temple album later). No matter which edition you happened upon, the highlights were the singles , “Rain”, “Revolution” and primarily their breakthrough hit “She Sells Sanctuary.

Years later, the album’s held its own in critics minds. The BBC call it “by far their best” album, a “quantum leap forward, but their sound had yet to be distilled into the pure hard rock” that they’d follow it with. Kerrang rate it 4.5-stars, allmusic 4. the latter also suggest it’s “aged better” than their other, bigger records, and it was a “marked improvement” over their previous material. They picked some different tracks as the highlights however, notably the “compelling melodies” of “Hollow Man” and the driving riffs of “Nirvana” and “The Phoenix.”

Sales-wise it was a quantum leap from their relatively obscure debut album. The trio of singles all hit the British top 30, and “She Sells Sanctuary” made it to #15 there and #11 in Canada, where it was a suprise multi-platinum selling single. That pushed the album itself into the top 5 in both Britain and Canada (where it was double platinum), however it peaked at only #87 in the U.S., where it drew little notice upon release…which perhaps prompted them to go to Rick Rubin for the next record, Electric, which indeed made them stars there as well.

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15 thoughts on “October 18 – A Lot To ‘Love’ About Early Cult

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    She Sells Sanctuary is the one where I noticed them.. It was like a wall of noise coming at you…I liked it and Edie also. It seems like drummers more than any other musician gets shuffled around more than the others. That might be because drummers are on the whole a little out there…at least the ones I’ve dealt with…the only normal one was the worse drummer I knew.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. likely so. I have no interest in video games so I don’t pay much attention but I know that with the millions of young gamers (including my sweetie’s two kids) that they are a major way of getting older music known to the young.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Badfinger (Max)

        Oh yea this is one I think you would like. Why? I hate games for the most part but it is based in the 1980s and they got the 80s down! You drive around and listen to these 80s songs.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. the kiddo here plays some version of ‘FAllout’ which is sort of 40s themed I guess and she likes a lot of big band and crooners like Sinatra music because of it. Weird but at least they’re hearing something older than Dua Lipa or Megan theeeee Stallion!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Badfinger (Max)

        YES… just like The Beatles: Rock Band game introduced them to millions…or reintroduced… Bailey had that one and yes I was back there playing. I was terrible at it…even with the songs I can actually play for real lol.

        Liked by 1 person

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