The Cult: Love [Expanded Edition CD review (Shockhound)

Lots of bands have albums that mark a stylistic high point of their evolution, those moments when a band’s essence is perfectly distilled into 40 or 45 minutes. The Cult, thanks to its various permutations and reconfigurations over the years, has had more than most. In fact, the three albums the band released between 1985 and 1989 – LOVE, ELECTRIC and SONIC TEMPLE – all represent different high-water marks for the Cult’s sound. SONIC TEMPLE was the band at it’s bombastic, radio-rock peak, while ELECTRIC was a pared-down, riff-crunching, AC/DC-styled ass-kicking. LOVE, however, came first, and represented the apex of everything Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy had been striving for up until that point. A mixture of post-punk posture, psychedelic swagger, jangle-pop infectiousness and beefy, anthemic rock ‘n’ roll, LOVE was wrapped in inscrutable packaging that only heightened its allure and amplified its timelessness. Of course, it also contains “She Sells Sanctuary,” which is not only the Cult’s signature number but is one of a handful of songs that defines the sound of mid-’80s college rock. Still, it’s not even the best song on this classic album; that honor goes to “Phoenix,” a driving swirl of wah-pedal wooze, shaking tambourines and a soaring, gospel-tinged groove that should always be Exhibit A in any defense of this band’s reputation. This remastered edition beefs up the sonics of the album, but the real reason to buy these 24-year-old recordings is the inclusion of all the B-sides and remixes that came out along with the album. Some of those cuts – the epic and moody “Sunrise,” the blistering stream-of-consciousness of “The Snake” – are among the Cult’s best moments, and while some may question whether or not an additional three versions of “She Sells Sanctuary” are necessary, the strength of the other bonus cuts more than outweighs the silliness of one of those remixes.

First appeared Aug. 18, 2009 at Shockhound.com

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