In 1987 The Cult were well poised for crossover success. The band with the alternative roots in previous incarnations Southern Death Cult and Death Cult sensed it was their time. To an extent, they were right.
The groups first album Dreamtime (1984) showed a lot of promise and energy with tracks that stand the test of time, even to today, like Spiritwalker and Horse Nation.
Arguably their 2nd album Love (1985) contains their best ever song She Sells Sanctuary. That song would fill alternative nightclub dancefloors in seconds. The Cult were not really Indie, not really Classic Rock, not really Goth. They were alternative and an awful lot of people liked them, even if they weren’t really sure why. The group mostly looked the real deal and sought to achieve massive success with their 3rd album Electric.
They certainly went about it the right way. Appointing Rick Rubin to produce the album they chose the best producer of the time.
I can recall an interview with Ian Astbury in 1987 from Sounds where he stated that they wanted to make a Classic Album that would be remembered in 20 or 30 years. Electric went Platinum in the States and peaked at Number 4 in the U.K. (Gold). 25 years on (now) is therefore probably the right time then to see how Electric sounds now.
Wild Flower shows that the band have gone for a stripped down Metal sound. The production, as you’d expect from Rubin is very clean and sparse. It sounds good – but not great.
Peace Dog is heavier. Seemingly a love song for a bomber aircraft the subject matter raises an eyebrow. Astbury does vocally sound on form and lets out the occasional “Yaaawwl“.
Lil’ Devil is funkier whilst still sounding like a traditional rock song. The bass production on this song is superb but something just ain’t working. It’s hard to put your finger on it, maybe the listener is used to The Cult sounding less conventional.
Aphrodisiac Jacket steps in to save Electric. A robust hook of a riff that hits the right spot. More layered than any track so far, it works and the album begins to form a shape at last.
Electric Ocean plods out. The promise shown in the preceding song is wasted and the track sounds laboured. The Cult sound out-of-their-depth attempting to be rock gods.
Bad Fun also falls wide-of-the-mark. Fast. Bluesy, but somehow sounding insincere. It fails.
King Contrary Man launches Side Two and again recovers an album that was failing. A wicked riff and great vocals. Why couldn’t all the songs be up to this standard?
Love Removal Machine with its Start Me Up (Rolling Stones) borrowed hook works too. The Cult now sound comfortable with a stadium sound. The album is proving hit-and-miss despite its brilliant sound – it’s the songs that are failing it – and that’s the most important ingredient surely.
Born To Be Wild is THAT Born To Be Wild and again The Cult pull-it-off. How, I’m not sure but it’s a great cover of a song where the original could never be bettered.
Outlaw sees The Cult go for ZZ Top territory and again, is somewhere they shouldn’t go. A buzzy riff sounds good but overall it falls flat.
Memphis Hip Shake closes Electric and does so weakly. There’s no discernible riff or anything about the song.
Reading the above back, it looks like Electric is hit and miss and overall that it’s a bit rubbish. That is not actually the case. When the album came out I listened to it an awful lot and there is something about the album. Whilst it is over-ambitiuos it is a unique record in some ways. A bit like a promising striker from the Championship signing for a Top 4 club and failing but still being a cult hero.
Ian Astbury with his Wolf Child ambitions was a great frontman and an honest rock star, even if the rest of the band looked like accountants that had spiked their hair up.
I’d recommend giving the album a listen but it is no Highway To Hell or Led Zep IV as the band suggested before they released it…