Revisiting the Cult’s Second Album, ‘Love’
In the years before Love hurtled the Cult to fame, Ian Astbury found himself stuck between his gothic punk and post-punk leanings.
He'd initially linked up with guitarist Billy Duffy following the dissolution of his band Southern Death Cult in 1983. Their new group was initially called Death Cult, before that was eventually shortened to the Cult, a moniker both more simple and less open to preconceptions.
The Cult's first album, 1984’s Dreamtime, was a moderate success in their native U.K. but, while a solid effort, it lacked an identifiable sonic clarity. The follow-up Love arrived on Oct. 18, 1985, changing that in one fell swoop.
Both Astbury and Duffy dispensed with the trappings of early-'80s fashion – check out the Dreamtime outfits, which looked suspiciously Duran Duran-ish – and created something which not only established the Cult as forerunners of the burgeoning hard-rock movement of the mid-'80s, but set them decidedly apart from the coming hair-metal craze.
Love is a borderline work of art that, had it been pushed by a major label, could have shifted the culture of music by leaps and bounds. “She Sells Sanctuary” is hands down one of the greatest rock epics. It’s got that slow-build beginning, tough-love intro and catchy-as-hell Ian Astbury enunciation, “Make my back, make my back burn, yeah-yeah.” The fire in his eyes hits most prominently in songs like “Rain,” “Revolution,” “Phoenix” and the title track. Sure, there’s a point where it delves into Ian Astbury’s Native American tribal leanings, but it’s never detrimental.
At different times over the years, Astbury has had a love/hate relationship with Love, but there remains little dispute about what it did as a breakthrough moment for the Cult.
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