THE CULT ON A LOVE MISSION: Saving What’s Left Of Rock And Roll

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – When I first saw the Cult I thought it was a little bit funny. I think seriously I was the only one who thought this. Front man Ian Astbury looked a bit like Shelly Duvall in Kubricks, “The Shining”. He had this tight black head wrap and his big ears stuck outside of his long scraggly black hair. Then he opened his mouth it was about as big as an alligator. He was screaming about how much he loved the rain…. I could see he was doing some sort of homage to the 60’s and I dug that. I stretched my imagination and got into the vibe and decided to take him seriously. Then in 1986, the big single came out and changed the way we looked at rock bands at that time.

“She Sells Sanctuary” was more than just a college campus hit. The Love album stayed on the alternative charts for months and that song became a dance club staple for years. You could not escape it and it was refreshing against the backdrop of Mister Mister, Styx, and Bruce Springsteen on MTV. This was soul gripping rock and roll and it demanded attention. It demanded your UTMOST attention and it demanded that you take some sort of action. This action could include getting dressed up and hitting the streets and finding some place to go out and create a scene. It wasn’t just the alternative weirdos that dug The Cult but the metal kids for some reason seemed to like them too.



In Detroit you could even find their music blaring loudly at Harpos. To the kids in the bar it was a typical night and business as usual. This was the audio fabric that connected the masses. Surely, the bands next effort would transform even more people. When “Electric” came out the band opened for Billy Idol at Pine Knob. Ian Astbury gave Steven Tyler a run for his money in the wardrobe department and he wore a disturbingly big dead animal of some sort on his head. The rumor on the street was that his girlfriend made it for him. This big brown furry animal skin was adorned with a big silver skull and cross bones on it. He screamed at the audience,  “GET UP AND BOOOGAYYYYY !!!!!!  UP ON YOUR FEET !!!”

But the audience didn’t. Well, some did. But most of them just kind of looked at the band like they were from outer space. This was the epic, “Electric” album and it is considered a classic today. MTV played the death out of the songs including, “Wild Flower”, “Lil Devil”, and “Love Removal Machine”. The band did much better with the metal audience with the next album, “Sonic Temple”. This cemented them as a unique presence and a real force in metalesque music done with precision and style. Everything they did was deliberate and heart felt.


I’m in New York chasing down money – ain’t that a B? It’s hot and brutal and I don’t want to admit it but I am lost in Chelsea. I got my intuition turned on and I am pretty sure if I keep walking East I will end up back on Broadway or a block or two close to it. I am passing under some wooden construction structures and that is when I see the poster for THE CULT and a new single called, “Dirty Little Rock Star”. I am one of those instant gotta have it right now types so I downloaded it to my ipod later that night in my hotel. I could hear the band that I grew up with and learned to love and respect – oddball hair and clothes style aside.  The rest of the album deserved a listen too. The album, “Born Into This” is actually really good and well constructed and has a serious flow to it.


The music is uniquely theirs and belongs to no one else. But then The Cult did something really unusual around this time. When they toured Detroit recently they dropped all the cool clothes and custom leather and opted for more American garb. They looked like they went on a shopping spree at Walmart with black hoodies and engineer boots. They lost their long trademark hair and I didn’t even recognize them. Ian Astbury was always a stand out character and now I couldn’t even see him. I mean, he was there, and he sounded the same and was still the dynamic performer but I was a bit put off. Ian had grown into this larger than life persona and is really one of rocks most original personalities.


But I couldn’t see him. I found pictures of them that were taken from a local concert promoter. So I don’t want to get all lost in that okay…. It’s the Cult. Who else is going to replace them? I listened to the rest of the album and liked it. The whole album has a big signature on it and the sound is up to par. I am glad to see them tour again and working on the stage because for a while the whole Cult thing seemed so uncertain.



In 2003, Ian Astbury was doing this thing for the Doors and I didn’t get a chance to see any of those performances but they are on the web. I don’t know why I didn’t go because it would have been a great chance to see them play. It was also one of the last times that Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek would ever play in front of an audience. My loss… truly. But Ian did a great job bringing those songs back to life and was the perfect front man for the group. Both Jim Morrison and Ian Astbury had something in common and that is they both wanted to be Native American but were not. They weren’t even in the same ballpark. One was a total white guy and the other was a total British white guy. How weird is that? But I don’t to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm because they both understood showmanship on some guttural level.





Morrison had his white poet shirt with ruffles and was drunk out of his mind all the time. For him, it worked and it served a purpose. True, he self destructed but he went out in the bizarre way that he wanted to. Ian Astbury dressed up like a gypsy with ribbons in his hair and pirate shirts and well what can you really say? My favorite story about him was when he ran out of a club and almost got killed by running in front of a taxi in all that garb. The driver reportedly said, “What the F*&K  was that?”


I saw something that the Cult did right before their heyday came crashing down. The song, aptly named, “Coming Down” was phenomenal. At that time Ian Astbury had cut his long hair and took on more of a Jim Morrison look and who knows – maybe that is what got him hired. He was at his angry best and from what I could tell he kind of reminded me of the kid from the original, “Omen” movie only grown up into some sort of twisted angst ridden adult. Oh before I get too far off the track I just want to say that I found it uplifting and revealing. This was a new level of emotion and yearning even for them and that red and purple strobe light video is killer.  I’m putting too much emphasis on Ian but just go with me here for a second. In this video his physical stance is a lot like Morrison’s but then it’s not. Clearly it’s a new kind of character persona here and there is some great posturing and fancy footwork. Ian knows how to command an audience even it if is only for video and knows how to work a mic stand.



As for Billy Duffy’s guitar work what can I say. It is there and has its own colorful language. There is a heavy riff there that carries the melody with the bass. Even at the lowest levels there is music and it is highly enjoyable. It’s even catchy. It is static in its appearance but it is also hypnotic. There are things about the Cult that are disturbing though. First, the name…. sounds bad. It sounds taboo and it makes one question, if only for a minute, if one should be listening to it. Is it evil? Or is it bliss? Is it a celebration of the senses and does it communicate the unspoken things in every human beings heart? I like to think that it does…..


What are they going to bring to the table on the 2014 tour? They have played, “Electric” in its entirety for the audiences in recent days. I am not going to lie to you – I would personally enjoy that immensely and would want to sit as close as possible to the stage. But then if they did nothing but new material I would be okay with that too. I mean… did you hear, “Beyond Good and Evil” in it’s entirety? There are some moments on there that would translate well to the current day. I want to see rock… but with style and that is what these guys do.


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" This is a WELCOMED surprise... I personally feel they haven't lost a beat. They are quite in step with earlier work. The guitars are straight out of the rich Pixies library of sounds and the unexpected harmonies are what made them famous..... and really, what made us take notice of them in the first place....."


The PIXIES: Return To Greatness
By Ted Cantu

You know when art has made it to greatness when video documentary producers hire a British guy to narrate it for the audience. This somehow gives it an added sense of importance and makes it official. I have seen this done for Egyptian archeology, UFO documentaries and specials on Leonardo DiVinci. Actually, placing the Pixies right up there with those categories just feels right. The meanings of their complex music catalog calls out to all of those areas and even beyond. I think the true meaning of their songs exists somewhere between the atoms in all forms. Not in the parts where matter comes together but in the space in between where the atoms don’t physically touch. Make no mistake…. Their artistry is important.


THE PIXIES - The band is back and brings its A game to a curious collection of musical insights to the world you live in.

I’ve always known this to be true. I remember seeing the Doolittle tour in Detroit at St. Andrews Hall. I was in the front 5 rows and it was in the middle of the song, “Where is My Mind” when something made me turn around and look towards the back of the auditorium. In the ghostly chorus I looked back at the expressionless faces behind me watching this show. My inner voice said, “Remember this moment” and I knew that at that exact moment it would be etched into my heart, brain and psyche forever. Those faces were fixated in awe at the mighty sounds that forever changed conventional rock music. There are not too many memories like that in my concert going experience. Some shows are just for fun, some shows are about rebellion and noise. But the Pixies were forever.


They are back…. from a long hiatus. The whole gang is back minus Kim Deal. And by the whole gang I am referring to legendary graphic designer Vaughn Oliver from the 4AD record label days. It his Oliver’s lush and rough juxtaposition of typography and photography that brought visual life to the Pixies gigantic sound. The symbiotic relationship is self absorbed and co-creative. The album is on the Pixies own label this time around and the sounds are melodic and meaningful and not forced. This sounds like a Pixies record and has the entire signature notes from the, “Trompe Le Monde” and, “Bossonova” days.


Is the album enjoyable? Oh yes, “Magdalena” is a hypnotic song based on some sort of obsession that only Black Francis could do. I think that is what he calls himself these days but don’t quote me on it. I liked his other alter ego too as Frank Black. Both personas were unique into their own right. Both of them had something in common and that was the enjoyment of tap dancing on your raw nerve endings.  This is well crafted obsession, dark, obtrusive and brooding. You almost don’t want it to end and once it does it instantly invites another listen.


In, “Ring the Bell” Black Francis is addressing a distant memory and a reluctance to go back. He almost feels obligated to go back with someone of importance. It is a cheerful song and is instantly appreciated. Someone on YouTube commented, “Oh joy, they did a Christmas song….” But the depths of this song go deeper than any kind of frivolous holiday song. There is meaning here and drives into a soul search where Black exclaims, “My heart is empty….” I listen to this and wonder to myself what took them so long to come out with this album.


This is atmospheric. There are many emotions here on this release. It also fits into the rest of the catalog and wasn’t just slapped together for convenience. That being said there is plenty of respect given to the fans here and that is extraordinary. I mean, that is big for everybody and also gives the fan base something to latch onto.


THE PIXIES - Ring The Bell - From The Album, "Indy Cindy"



The Pixies have given a lot of meaning to the word, “Alternative Music” and in many ways helped shape it and define it into something of an industry. The early 90’s were such a constructive time for music with so many influences rushing the airwaves from The Smashing Pumpkins, Live, They Might Be Giants and so many others. Now as the years settle the critics and music aficionados fondly remember certain favorites. Even David Bowie responds to this rise of the Pixies in a documentary in 2007. These are all fantastic recollections but I could hardly bare to watch them on television or on the web without feeling the yearning for more iconic material. The Pixies new music is something of a celebration and this encourages joy. The heart feels complete and has new reasons for beating.


When you hear Andro Queen everything about the Pixies should become immediate. There is nobody who can really master the sounds and put them together in such an off worldly way. The overall sound is comprehensive and rich and audio accoutrements are intact. This is a band that will give you the sounds of outer space and even the audio verbal nods to barking sea monkeys. What other band is going to give you a complete sound of life and everything in it. There are no unanswered questions in this release and that feels pretty good.

** Get more reviews on The Pixies - Latest Releases

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