Revisiting The Cult - Love



By the time the mid-80s rolled around, hair metal and Duran Duran dominated the musical landscape of Britain. Having toyed with and struggled through numerous lineup and stylistic changes, The Cult firmly took hold of the British rock scene and launched Love; the band's true commercial breakthrough, rejecting to conform to the mainstays at the time. 35 years have passed since the album reached number four in the UK charts and stayed for 22 weeks, and still to this day, the record hits just as hard.


Lead singer Ian Astbury spent much of his childhood in Canada where he became fascinated with Native American culture which left such an impression that its influence can be found in his songwriting throughout his career. Astbury formed The Southern Death Cult in 1981, a precursor to The Cult, with much more gothic-rock leanings. Having become disillusioned with the positive reception the band were receiving, Astbury soon disbanded the group. Billy Duffy, who had worked with Morrissey on the pre-Smiths band The Nosebleeds, was recruited to form Death Cult in 1984. Wanting to shift away from the gothic connotations, the band decided to drop the Death from the name.


Love represented a transitional period for The Cult. After forming the band, Ian Astbury was trapped between his gothic rock and post-punk tendencies, and with Dreamtime, released only a year previous, showed The Cult were still finding their feet musically. That all changed with Love. Revealing an explosive unique sound and maturity that should have been fourth or fifth album material, if this had been launched on a major music label, Love could have, and should have, been one of the best-selling hard rock albums of all time.


Love opens unapologetically with Nirvana, with its driving drums and Duffy's signature riffs setting the tone and standard of the entire album. Blending the psychedelic trappings of The Doors, crunching hard-rock chords and the scope and orchestral sound of Led Zeppelin, The Cult showcased their refined sound on every track. The likes of Big Neon Glitter, Hollow Man and Rain could all be leading singles, but the song that defined the album, and the band, was She Sells Sanctuary.


The now iconic and instantly recognisable intro to She Sells Sanctuary was down to Duffy leaving on all the effects on the guitar pedals, before the hard-hitting drums drop and the track is still unable to be played on anything less than full volume. Love allowed Astbury and co to delve into more melodic ballads with the likes of Revolution, Brother Wolf; Sister Moon and Black Angel. Love is one of those timeless albums that you never feel the need to skip any track. If you haven't listened to this masterpiece in its entirety, its only been 35 years, I implore you to do so, as loud as you can.