Home Read Classic Album Review: The Cult | Beyond Good and Evil

Classic Album Review: The Cult | Beyond Good and Evil

Ian Astbury & Billy Duffy deliver everything a classic-rock comeback disc should be.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Of the 1,000 bands that played at the South by Southwest Music Festival in 2001, two of the hottest tickets in town were also two of the oldest — The Black Crowes and The Cult.

Make of that what you will, but I don’t think it was coincidence. The way I see it, it’s a sign. A sign that perhaps folks are finally getting tired of boy bands with choreographed routines and rap-metal outfits with choreographed rage. A sign that folks are ready — hell, eager — for the return of good, old-fashioned guitar-rock of the ’80s. And, perhaps, a sign that any day now, pastel suitjackets with shoulder pads and Members Only windbreakers will be back in style.

OK, so not everything from the ’80s deserves a comeback. But when the cultural artifact in question is The Cult, allow me to put down the welcome mat and roll out the red carpet. Especially when their comeback comes in the form of an album as dynamic and exciting as Beyond Good and Evil. Big and swaggering, bold and experimental, classic yet contemporary, this is everything a classic-rock comeback disc should be: A triumphant return to past glories, a bold survey of the present and a confident step into the future.

It’s been seven years since Billy Idolesque guitarist Billy Duffy and Jim Morrisonian singer Ian Astbury packed it in following their resoundingly ignored self-titled 1994 album. But judging by the sound of the dozen new tracks that make up BG&E’s 50-minute running time, the only thing they’ve lost is some hair and skin tone. Duffy can still toss off Zeppelin-sized, arena-filling riffs and guitar-god solos. Astbury (who kept his hand in with an electronica-charged solo disc a couple of years back) still brings the bellow. And for authenticity’s sake, drummer Matt Sorum and bassist Martyn LeNoble — both of whom took a spin in The Cult’s revolving-door lineup — are back for the ride, along with producer Bob Rock, who recorded the 1989 classic Sonic Temple.

But BG&E isn’t just some nostalgia-fest blast from the past for the classic-rock crowd. Duffy, Astbury et al don’t just reboot their AC/DC-influenced ’80s sound here. They strip it for parts, then hotwire them with the finest moments of everything from ’90s grunge and industrial to cutting-edge electronica and nü-metal. Along with the vintage Les Paul power chords a la Jimmy Page on War (The Process) or Rise, there are fuzzed-out riffs nicked from Soundgarden. Next to the shout-at-the-heavens anthemic chorus of The Saint, there are lo-fi, distorto-voiced verses and subliminal samples. Between the big, booming drumbeats, you’ll find funky breaks and tight, beatboxy rhythms. For every ringing lead solo, there are shards of post-rocky noise. Best of all, they stitch it together so seamlessly it sounds natural, not like some old coots trying to be hip. Most of these songs are so expertly constructed you might not notice all these touches unless you listen for them. Instead, you can spend your time doing just what you should be doing while listening to The Cult — dancing around the room, banging your head and playing air guitar.

Any band that can still inspire that sort of behaviour — no matter how old they are — deserve to be a hot ticket.