If most old rock bands don't die but just settle for reformation tours and the middle class dollar, The Cult are making an anti-career for themselves as one of the mould breakers. Not content to simply rely on flogging the same old material, Choice of Weapon was the album they swore would never be released (A pair of EP's in 2010 were meant to signal their maximum commitment to the form) and arrives with lead singer Ian Astbury as grumpy with the world as any sixties child you've ever met.
History lessons are rarely entertaining, but for completeness The Cult emerged from the punk/goth miasma of West Yorkshire in the early eighties, eventually cultivating an unlikely multi-million selling reputation after reviving the classic Trans Atlantic hard rock sound everyone else had forgotten. This is the band's second post reformation album, and comes produced with long term collaborators Chris Goss (Queens of The Stone Age) and Bob Rock (Metallica, Aerosmith).
It would be perhaps forgivable to expect something that stuck rigidly to a traditional framework, one of chicks, whisky and fret-pumelling solos as standard, but instead Astbury and fellow writer Billy Duffy have conjured up a collection that's simultaneously bleak, dignified and tough as leather, with few compromises to the mainstream. The front cover visually bears the image of a Native American shaman, symbolic of the band's early obsessions, but the low slung riffage of opener Honey From A Knife confirms that their familiar second incarnation musical chassis has stayed very much in place.
If this story so far gives the impression of a Luddite, unappealing formula, the reverse is quite true. Elemental Light may have a new age sentiment, but on it Astbury's chamber deep baritone strays close to the delivery of Glenn Danzig, whilst the song itself skilfully avoids any suggestion of pretence. On Life > Death the analogy extends to the melodrama of late period Johnny Cash, whilst Wilderness Now continues to revel in the almost wake like atmosphere, an operatic dirge full of contempt for the "Modern" world. It's this tendency to stay just on the right side of the melodrama/cliche line that makes everything bubble with the grim vitality of an outfit half their age.
If this is The Cult in reflective mode, there's still ample proof of life in all its p*ssed off shades of crimson. Here The Wolf rails against the superficiality of current entertainers, oligarchs and politicians at leather belted full throttle, whilst Lucifer spirals down through the fringes of acid freak outs, portraying hallucinations of..well, guess who getting high and generally giggling whilst Rome burns. In a sense this is what the outsider would expect, but the fire and brimstone point to a sensibility less travelled; Choice of Weapon may deliver it's payload through some oblique lyrical references, but makes itself understood without the need for eloquence. Name your cliche - growing disgracefully, rock of ages, zimmer frame boogie ad nauseam, but The Cult still have something to say and they think we should listen. It's that, or show a profound lack of respect for our elders.
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