The ex-Smith proves his greatness on a spiky live album
Cults - 'Static'
Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion are no longer a couple and their second album wears its bruised heart on its sleeve.
This may also be due to the personal circumstances surrounding the writing and recording of the album, which saw Follin and Oblivion splitting up as a couple. Lyrics such as “You and me, always forever” (from ‘Always Forever’) and “If you could just give me a sign, we could leave it all behind” (from ‘I Can Hardly Make You Mine’) suggest we are in the territory of the indie break-up album. In less skilful hands this could be self-indulgent, but Cults have significantly upped their songwriting and arranging skills on ‘Static’, opening up their rather closed musical world in the process. A song like ‘I Can Hardly Make You Mine’ benefits from an epic psychedelic arrangement that twists around its winsome vocal melody, sounding like MGMT at their most coherent. ‘High Road’ and ‘No Hope’, meanwhile, sport bass and drum lines that weigh in on the side of funk. The latter takes Cults close to a modern R&B sound.
The great, soaring walls of guitars that drove their debut album are still present, of course, but on ‘Static’ they mingle effortlessly with vertiginous strings (as on ‘So Far’, probably the closest the band will ever get to the drama of a Bond theme) and moody organ chords (‘Keep Your Head Up’). The result is a great album that simultaneously wears its bruised heart on its sleeve (the lovelorn should be warned: it’s a real tearjerker at times), and sugars its melancholy with opulent musical arrangements. Heartbreak has rarely sounded so sweet.
10 Tracks You Need To Hear This Week (9/10/2015)
Detroit punks hone their ample strengths on a third album that's pure rock 'n' roll
They’re still sombre, but the Manchester pop duo flirt with optimism on a fist-pumping third album
The Coventry trio's fourth album is sometimes ham-fisted, but always heartfelt