Hanging in a crush-gaze balance with Cults

Metal worship
By LUKE O'NEIL  |  January 17, 2012

ABDUCTED “I grew up experimenting with a lot of different religions, almost glorifying the idea of living an alternative lifestyle,” says Cults’ Brian Oblivion.

What do you think has been the most buzzed-about indie style over the past few years? Electro-house? Dubstep? 9tz grunge?

All worthy guesses, but look to the music of New York City duo Cults for a better answer. Their reverb-laden '60s Girl-Group-pop is one part sunny sheen of a hipstamatic California beach party, one part big-city crime noir. It sounds like roller skating down the boardwalk and tripping over a murdered wannabe Hollywood starlet, then falling in love with her anyway. Of course, the same can be said of everyone from Lykke Li to Best Coast to Vivian Girls to La Sera to Dum Dum Girls and every other indie bird with fierce bangs and a shoulder-sleeve tattoo making music now in a reactionary magical manic-pixie antithesis ideal.

Of that whole crush-gaze sorority — to coin a ridiculous sounding term that might just be dumb enough to gain some bloggy traction — it's Cults who make the sunny parts sunniest, and the dark parts darkest; and who, most importantly, have the best tunes on their 2011 homonymous full-length debut off Columbia imprint In The Name Of. "Go Outside" was possibly the song of the year in 2010 when it came out as a single, and then again the next year when it blew up. The twinkling schoolroom glockenspiel and the hypnotic echoing multi-tracked vocals created a dreamy, crushed-out, teddy-bear-spooning after-school vibe, but underpinned with enough dirt and cynicism to smudge the veneer. The Jim Jones audio clip at the beginning doesn't hurt the malevolence quotient either.

Speaking of lower-case cults, songs like "Never Heal Myself" perfectly illustrate the lovelorn shell game going on in their music. It sounds like a typical broken-hearted lament, but the lyrics, "Tell me all the things that you thought weren't right about me and my life/Tell me there's a way that I can shake this cloud and stand near to your light," make it sound like it could've been written from the perspective of an actual cult disciple struggling to claw her way out.

"I can see that," says Brian Oblivion, one part of the core Cults duo with Madeline Follin. "I think it's very adolescent, it's about moving away and going home." The two met while in film school in NYC after periods in their lives where they dropped out of high school and tried to live on their own in California. "It's about going home and having people treat you like a fuck-up because you weren't such a good person in the past, but the reality has changed and you can never really convince them. I guess that psychology could carry over to a religious crisis."

Ambiguity, however, is more appealing. "Even the name Cults to us has a whole bunch of different reasons. I grew up experimenting with a lot of different religions, almost glorifying the idea of living an alternative lifestyle, leaving home, going to live on a weird farm somewhere, following beliefs everyone thinks are crazy. At the same time that always seems to end so poorly. The drama is tragic. But we like drama, too."

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  Topics: Music Features , Paradise Rock Club, cults, cults,  More more >
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