Release Date: Jun 7, 2011
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Like skinny jeans and ironic mustaches, 1960s girl-group pop has become an inescapable hipster totem: every week, it seems, the bohemian corners of Brooklyn and Los Angeles disgorge more Phil Spector-worshipping indie rockers. Enter Cults, aka Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, Californians-turned-New Yorkers who take the usual musical ingredients (vintage R&B chord progressions, reverb-laced girl-vocals) and add psychedelic clamor, guitar fuzz, and a booming low end. Cults are excellent songcrafters, expert at boosting drama with dynamics and unexpected sounds.
When Cults' "Go Outside" first appeared on the web last year, it spread like wildfire. It was catchy and sweet, the kind of sing-along that felt like it was pulled from the air, with a sentiment perfect for anyone stuck in an office or addicted to the Internet. But how many communal sing-alongs can a band make before the approach goes stale? Cults have opted not to find out.
From an anonymous debut single (“Go Outside”) to a major record deal a few months later, Cults are on a swift rise—testament to the infectiousness of their girl-group-obsessed confections. Lazy bass lines stroll through lightly sprinkled, chiming keys, delivering sugar-powdered pop. Bittersweet like dark chocolate, the sing-along lyrics touch on the growing pains of lost youth and love, substance abuse and more.
Like, well, a cult, Cults have been all about mystery and mythmaking since surfacing online in the spring of 2010. Not much was known about the NYC duo before—or, really, after—it came out of nowhere to drop the irresistible single “Go Outside”, a rapturous combination of ethereal indie dance-pop and neo-Jackson 5-ish soul. But rather than overexposing themselves, the twosome of vocalist Madeline Follin and instrumentalist Brian Oblivion seemed to hunker down and remained relatively obscure, which only built up their group’s aura as “Go Outside” won over more and more new converts.
There's something a little unwholesome and decaying about Cults. They hail from San Diego, and there's a California sunniness to their melodies, which lean heavily on early-60s girl-group pop (Bumper steals its tune straight from the Shangri-Las' Give Him a Great Big Kiss), but there's also a compelling uneasiness, perhaps reflecting their current residence in New York. Everything is draped in reverb, giving their debut album a sepulchral air.
Cults made the most of the mystery surrounding them, turning the three songs they posted on their Bandcamp page into major-label record deal in just over a year. Of course, it helped that one of those songs was “Go Outside,” a piece of pop so sunny and wistful that it only made the question “who is this band?” even more pressing. However, the more important question was: could they sustain that kind of beauty over an entire album? The expectations for Cults were nearly as high as the level of secrecy around the band in its early days, and the revelation that the group revolved around New York-based guitarist Brian Oblivion and vocalist Madeline Follin did little to dispel the enigma.
In the throes of puppy-eyed passion, music holds a peculiar sway over lovers, coaxing out insufferable sweet nothings. Not to mention the heinous idea of an “our song”. Of course, when you find yourself catapulted out the arse-end of a “serious relationship”, that heady cocktail of sound and memory that once inspired lusty reverie will inevitably turn sour.
CULTS play Kops Records, 8 pm, and Lee’s Palace, midnight, on Friday (June 17); and Dundas Square Saturday (June 18), 7 pm, as part of NXNE. See Kops Records listing // See Lee's Palace listing // See Dundas Square listing Rating: NNN It didn't take long for Cults to rise to blog ?fame on the strength of their earwormy first single, Go Outside. But instead of embracing the attention, they made the most of their unknown status, wilfully obscuring their identities until the buzz hit fever pitch.
The music industry on both sides of the Atlantic will be watching the release of Cults' self-titled debut to see whether a buzzy blog-to-major label transit will now become a regular part of a band's rise to fame (and profitability). The American fuzz-pop duo began popping up on the internet radar in early 2010 and now find themselves on the verge of their major label release. Quick work by Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin.
Shrouded in the mystery of their infectious indie pop, Cults‘ self-titled debut will sweep you off to an era of sultry girl groups and 60’s pop. Cults is certainly a strong debut, filled with lusty, romantic tracks heavy in sinister lyrics. But, it’s missing the same energy and lasting impression as their much talked about bandcamp EP, Cults 7.
It’s a story as old as the Internet: Band releases single on its web site, gets noticed by blogs, gets signed to label, releases debut album. But with Cults, the speed and scale was astonishing: Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion released their debut single, “Go Outside,” in mid-2010, and the notice it got was apparently good enough to get them signed to major label Columbia (under Lily Allen’s In The Name Of imprint) with only two other songs committed to their Bandcamp page. What’s more, they claim to have never considered music as an option: Follin and Oblivion are in film school, and were interested in making films, not girl-group indebted indie-pop.
Imagine the mind of a cult member deprogrammed to fit right back into the apple-pie culture from which s/he was removed: on the surface things are fairly familiar, even saccharine, a reflection of current mores, but at the same time there are odd fragments of the sinister and various shards of the past that coexist in a not-entirely-enjoyable tension with the aforementioned façade. Such a topography presents itself on Cults’ self-titled debut LP. There are many directions from which the girl group influences of the 1960s can be taken — into garage lo-fi (Vivian Girls) or sweet catchy indie pop (The School), even toward the realm of chamber pop (The Magic Theatre, God Help The Girl).
A personality rich debut that transcends its timeworn influences. Hari Ashurst 2011 Cults emerged little over a year ago, seemingly out of nowhere, with their wildfire hit Go Outside and a heavy whiff of mystery. At the time facts about the band were thin; there were two of them, and they were from Brooklyn. But now the band (backed by additional members) are back with names, faces and a debut album – out on Lily Allen’s In The Name Of imprint – with no more ambiguity to hide behind.