The Cult – Best of Rare Cult

The Cult
Best of Rare Cult

I was very excited when this record arrived in my mailbox. The Cult were truly one of the more interesting bands during the 80’s, a real square peg that didn’t seem to fit anywhere, but one that fans of many genres could enjoy. College rock and Brit-pop fans found salvation in the Love album, bikers and headbangers could swear by Electric, and pop-metal fans could enjoy the accessibility of Sonic Temple. In the end, however, their wild changes in sound from record to record probably served to alienate, rather than captivate, their fans, and by the time the 90’s were well underway, most people just didn’t care what they were up to. So a collection of unreleased and hard to find tracks is long overdue for these guys.
Here’s the kicker, though: this CD is a sampler for the full length project that is – brace yourself – six CDs of outtakes! What in the wide wide world of sports is that all about? Can you imagine wading through six CDs worth of outtakes and B-sides from the Cult, a band who, at their best, consisted of 50 percent cool, 25 percent not as cool and 25 percent laughable musical manure? (Some would dispute my figures, most likely in favor of increasing the “manure” percentage.) Don’t get me wrong, I dig the Cult. But six CDs will probably give the listener the feeling of going through someone’s underwear drawer. I’m sure there’s plenty of cuts even the band would just as soon you didn’t hear. Anyhow, on with the reviewing!
The most interesting tracks are from an entire discarded album called Peace. Any songs emerging from this record previously saw release on the B-sides of singles that never made it to the states, and probably only the most die-hard collectors possesses these songs. If the jump from the goth-pop Love album to the cock rock of Electric seemed a little extreme, the original version of “Love Removal Machine,” included on this sampler, will fill in the gap. Peace was indeed a middle ground between the two records, and this version contains the more Manchester pop-sounding nature of the bands early work. Billy Duffy’s guitars are more jangly and reverbed than the AC/DC roar that came with Rick Rubin, and there is merely a faint glimmer of the arena rock aspirations in their eyes, a sound that would manifest itself on Electric. Those three records recorded in that period, and the heavily represented outtakes here, were the Cult’s finest years.
Other than those cuts, the other half of these songs are a total mixed bag. While the outtakes for Sonic Temple are at least more interesting and more experimental than the tracks that made it to that record, outtakes recorded during the Ceremony period will leave you wondering what those guys were smoking at the time. If you’ve heard Ian Astbury’s post-Cult outfit Holy Barbarians, you already know that too much Astbury and not enough Duffy is a very bad thing indeed, and that seemed to be the case. They’re hardly essential listening.
All in all, I would say this sampler is certainly worth the purchase price, because just as it has always been with these guys, half of the songs are really good. While I would like to hear the Peace record in its entirety, it probably got thrown out for a reason. Even a six CD outtake box from the Beatles would be a bit of overkill, and these guys sure as hell ain’t the Beatles. But then again, did the Beatles look this good in leather?