There’s no doubt in my mind, Cults have a collection of sweet sweet catchy songs that curl in your ears like a warm kitten on a sofa, but will they be able to continue in this direction forever? How many ‘Go Outside’, one of their most famous songs, can they produce? Probably not too many since the first song they played at House Of Blues on Saturday night, ‘High Road’, sounded far less poppy and had a much darker and modern dancey-tone than any of the songs featured on their debut album ‘Cults’.
A large part of their sound relies on Madeline Follin’s childish vocals, a voice that makes you think about every Motown girl-band of the 60s produced by the likes of Phil Spector; their first album was full of this dreamy candy pop, but I hadn’t even listened to their second one… Wait, Cults has released a second album? Yes and it was even released a few months ago, and I haven’t heard about it at all! But according to their set last night, ‘Static’, the name of this second album, seemed less into this kind of teen prom-dances and much more into borderline aggressive tempos and atmospheric soundscapes. I have read that the duo behind Cults, Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, split up last year, and this can obviously explain the darker tone (and some of the lyrics), but on stage you couldn’t really tell there was a love story then a sad ending between the two, there were few interactions between them, and although Brian Oblivion talked a few times to us, their stage presence was quite shy and contained.
The back of the stage was decorated with eight TV screens, producing the static reference to their last album, as well as some kaleidoscopic patterns projected on them. But beside this, there was not much to watch, Madeline stood behind the mic the whole time, often holding her black skirt with one hand, constantly balancing from one foot to the other, but hardly doing anything else than ravishing the crowd with her youthful alto. I mean she was very cute and charming with her black elf outfit and flat shoes, it was refreshing to see she hadn’t tried to bring up too much sex appeal in her performance, but there was a je-ne-sais-quoi which was missing, something that should tell me I am watching a real rock show and make me want to see this band again. Oblivion was navigating between his synth and guitar, while the other musicians, in the background, were producing the layers of Cults’ somehow less poppy – but also less memorable – music, when he said, before playing a song called ‘Weird Beat’, they were about to play a real rock song… although with Follin’s sweet voice it didn’t really sound like a rock song.
A large crowd was attending the show, people was cheering up much more for some songs than others as it is always the case, and they were showing much more enthusiasm for the ‘old ones’ such as ‘Abducted’, ‘Never Saw the Point’, ‘You Know What I Mean’, ‘Bumper’, ‘Rave On’ and of course ‘Go Outside’ than for ‘Were Before’ or ‘So Far’, although ‘Always Forever’ and the punchy-poppy ‘I Can Hardly Make You Mine’ had that familiar sugary feeling of teen dream pop.
Cults was giving a free show, some kind of Christmas present to their fans, I just had to make a reservation to attend it, but I was kind of surprised I could get in so easily, even front row, as I remember seeing them at Make Music Pasadena in 2012 and at the FYF Fest in 2011, and it was totally crowded, may be because these were festivals, may be because the buzz has faded away a bit. They made a false encore after playing ‘Rave on’, as nobody on stage had really left the stage but Oblivion said it was the encore (?), losing the chance to show this theatricality that most people crave for during a real show. Okay people applauded nevertheless, as if it was a real encore, but it was lacking a bit.
Music shows are often about everything else but music, however with Cults it had to be only about music, and there’s nothing wrong about this if the music can stand alone… fortunately, there was enough sweetness in Follin’s voice for this.
Never Saw the Point
You Know What I Mean
I Can Hardly Make You Mine
Total Control (The Motels cover)
Oh My God
I was happier because I knew I was happy
a snapshot of big hits and high tides, mostly high tides.
There is just a lot to love
the sound seemed to erupt from every side of the room
still on top
“danceable music for the end of days”
contracts its world in Nashisms
let’s take what we are offered
It’s the music, stupid