This is the USA/Sire version of the Beggar’s Banquet release, nice condition all round, a quid off the internet. Good.
A mate of mine once summed this release up thusly: “An utter B-side of an album”. At the time I could only agree. It was certainly my least favourite Cult album from their original run but has the passage of time done it any favours? Mostly, yes. For a start, it’s a great sounding record – produced by Richie Zito with Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury, it’s huge and organic.
Side One starts strong with the pairing of the beefy title track and quintessential Cult rocker Wild Hearted Son. At the time of release these seemed like little more than offcuts from previous album Sonic Temple, with Wild Hearted Son in particular a ringer for that album’s superior Sun King. Now though, without weight of expectation they sound pretty damn good. Earth Mofo follows and is an okay rock number but definitely from the “B-side” school, and the vibe is kept at “underwhelming” with side closer If – a trite ballad which is a clear contender for the band’s career-worst. In between those is White, an unexpectedly weighty and worthwhile piece of psych-gothery, its impact weakened by the poor song sequencing.
Side two kicks off with Full Tilt, a fun if inessential return to the Stones-meets-AC/DC riffalong of the Electric album. A great opening lyric (“Gunfire ricochets off my halo”) balanced out somewhat later on when Jim-Bob Sessionguy supplies the least groovy bass break in history while Astbury intones, “Superfat. Funky.” It’s straight back to the B-sides with Heart of Soul, coming on like a record company-led power ballad cash grab. It isn’t all bad, with Duffy’s Ronsonesque lead flourishes lending it some class, but come on. It’s a fine line between this and Every Rose Has Its fucking Thorn. Bangkok Rain displays a little more grunt and Indian is pleasantly mellow, all cellos and that, with the album showing signs of rallying on Sweet Salvation. Still in dodgy pseudo-ballad territory but with a good 70s vibe replete with Hammond organ and soulfully belted backing vocals recalling Merry Clayton or Clare Torry (or at least trying to) – but by this stage it’s a symphony in so-so.
Happily the album’s closer is also its standout track, among the band’s very best: Wonderland. A heavy atmospheric epic building from a trippy spoken word intro (“… and this hip young dude stood passionately succumbing to the he-dog sound of the mystifying beat combo that breaks down your door …”) via quality riffage and soloing until everybody’s chanting, “Earth God Mother! He-dog Brother!”
So, all-in, hardly a classic but better than I remembered. Some great stuff on there and while it has its rough patches, you’re left feeling the world just can’t be an entirely awful place when The Cult is chanting “Earth God Mother! He-dog Brother!” at you.