Like in many beautiful love stories, destiny played a major role in the meeting of Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin. She was in San Diego at the time, the city where he lived, attending a concert with a common friend. For some unknown reason, much of the girl’s stuff was in San Francisco and the boy offered to take her there by car. During the eight hour drive, a musical connection became apparent and they started listening to each other’s iPods. Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake and premonitory songs by Lesley Gore filled the car. A romantic affair began that is still going strong today and - once they settled in New York for their respective film studies - Cults was born.
After several singles – which have made them one of the most promising bands of the moment - they’re now releasing their debut album. The blogosphere is all over them - and since their performance at SXSW, so are the promoters. Their music looks back at the sixties: the sweet pop, the girl groups, even soul. But - unlike similar sounding bands who have emerged recently (Best Coast and Tennis for example) - their lyrics aren’t schmaltzy. They talk about broken hearts, drug abuse and (as their name indicates) they are especially fascinated by cults. Hence the Jim Jones sample (you know, the guru of the Jonestown massacre) on “Go Outside”.
Their self-titled debut album starts with the best song they’ve released to date: “Abducted” - a track that will undoubtedly prove a hit this summer. Brian took his time to emerge as a singer - with Madeline singing alone on the singles - but boy can he sing. The couple’s vocal harmonies will soften even the hardest of hearts. Yet as I mentioned, the lyrics contrast with the apparent innocence of the sound: “He tore me apart cause I really loved him / He took my heart away and left me to bleed out bleed out”. A sweetness and naïve spirit is accentuated with the use of instruments like the xylophone and glockenspiel on songs like “Go Outside” and “Oh My God”. They allow a vintage sound – yet embrace more contemporary techniques on other tracks, guitar distortion for example.
On “Never Saw The Point” they come close to The Shangri-Las. On “Most Wanted” they favour doo-wop - even more so on “You Know What I Mean”, a ballad in the vein of The Righteous Brothers. “Bumper” proves they have The Supremes down to a science, whilst the intro of “Walk At Night” is reminiscent of another nostalgic band, Saint Etienne. Finally “Rave On” is a ballad like the ones that inspired Angelo Badalamenti back in the day – and as on “Abducted”, Brian’s voice is a welcome bonus. It’s a melodious record: memorise the choruses, sing them in the shower and - of course -dance to them until you drop. Welcome to the cult of Cults.
Álvaro García Montoliu