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The Cult - Under the Midnight Sun (Album Review)

Tuesday, 18 October 2022 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Juan Azulay

The Cult cemented their place in the annals of rock history in 1985 with their career-topping sophomore collection ‘Love’. Many of their following studio albums—totalling 11 with the arrival of new LP ‘Under the Moonlight Sun’—were hit and miss as the band strived to replicate its perfect storm of memorable guitar riffs and spot on melodies.

‘Under the Midnight Sun’ continues their recent trajectory, which has seen them gradually reducing the intensity that earlier releases such as the AC/DC-influenced ‘Electric’ boasted, with the band’s career seemingly reflecting their own ageing process, like a juggernaut coming down from its top speed.

Dissecting the latest results, though, it’s clear that while guitarist Billy Duffy retains a knack for crafting sounds that have considerable appeal, Ian Astbury’s vocals have lost a lot of their energy.

Opener Mirror is a summary of their efforts of late, aiming for the epic but struggling to reach the dizzy heights of old. The lyrics also feel tired, heading into Spinal Tap territory with the “smouldering words” of Outer Heaven, a slightly above average effort that features a Pet Shop Boys-style string hook.

Duffy’s brilliant guitar playing carries the album, particularly on the heavy Knife Through Butterfly Heart and the exceptional A Cut Inside, where his dirty riff pops before Astbury invokes the “ghosts of our lives”, encapsulating the band’s status rather accurately. 

Elsewhere, deeply resonant guitar tones adorn Impermanence, a simple yet effective riff lifts Give Me Mercy, and Astbury delivers an admirable vocal performance for Vendetta X. ‘Under the Midnight Sun’ clearly enjoys its best moments when Duffy rules the roost, but when they click, they really click. The Cult still show enough glimpses of remaining relevant to ensure that this is more than a tired flexing of old muscles.

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