The Cult always seemed to be a bit of an oddity in the British landscape of music in the 80s. They weren’t a miserable indie band, they were briefly goths, they were musically opposed to synth-pop, and they weren’t a flag-waving celtic rock act either. The Cult’s transition from goth rockers to a straight ahead riff-based hard rock act, although not seamless, was a pleasing arc, and one that was highlighted to great effect on this surprisingly chart-topping compilation.
Of course The Cult had been around for a while in various forms previous to their chart-bothering years, but when they finally received their big cross-over hit with one of the key rock songs of the 80s, “She Sells Sanctuary”, their ambition to head stadium-wards was evident for all to hear. From Ian Astbury’s histrionic vocals, to the enjoyably simple guitar riffs and licks of Billy Duffy, there was no question that The Cult had their sights set on cracking the lucrative American market and showing the ridiculous hair metal acts how hard rock should be done. Of course with competition like Metallica and Guns n’ Roses also gaining momentum, The Cult didn’t quite make the impact that they deserved to, but they were one of the few UK hard rock acts to follow in Def Leppard’s footsteps and gain a foothold in North America during the late 80s other than poodle-permed monstrosity that was Whitesnake, so credit where credit is due.
While The Cult’s songbook was never one of the most diverse in rocks great tapestry, they made the best of what they had, penning such enjoyable tracks as “Love Removal Machine”, “Rain” and “Wild Flower”, riff-monsters all. Special mention should also go to “Edie (Ciao Baby)”, a song on which The Cult attempt to channel Queen influenced pomp with fan-dividing results. Sadly grunge and the perceived pressure to update the band’s sound to move with the times proved to be The Cult’s downfall as this resulted in some truly awful tracks, represented on the compilation by the clumsy “The Witch”. That this was the same band that had released the brilliant “Fire Woman” just three years before, seems unthinkable.
From paisley loving goths to leather-clad arena rockers, The Cult cut a unique path to become hard rock headliners, and this compilation does a good job of gathering together their key songs. Although the evolutionary journey is a little more difficult to follow due to the non-chronological sequencing, Pure Cult: For Rockers, Ravers, Lovers and Sinners is a fine introduction to one of the less celebrated rock acts of the 80s.
For those who remember The Cult at the height of their powers, but don’t want to risk the variable quality of their albums, Pure Cult: For Rockers, Ravers, Lovers and Sinners is the compilation to purchase. Those that just want to rock out pre-grunge style will also be well served.