Album ReviewsReview

Album Review: Cultdreams – Things That Hurt



Record Label: Big Scary Monsters

Release Date: 16/08/19

For Fans Of: The Cure, Slowcrush, Petrol Girls 



There are few bands as totally open and plain-speaking as post-punk duo, Cultdreams. Where many others mask their beliefs in metaphor and sloganeering, Cultdreams belong to the same crowd of thinking as Nervus, Petrol Girls, and Gouge Away in their refusal to present their work as absolutely anything less than who they are. In a lot of ways their music can be seen as a diary of frontwoman Lucinda Livingston, covering her experiences living in the 21st century and still having to deal with sexism and misogyny, even within a scene that supposedly prides itself on being all-inclusive. To illustrate how few punches Cultdreams pull, their debut album from back in 2017 opens with a frightening recount of when Lucinda was mugged at gunpoint and explores the effects this has had on her even to this day. After two and a half years, Cultdreams have returned with Things That Hurt, and although they might have undergone a name change, the same open and pissed off attitude remains. 

Although the themes covered in Cultdreams’ second record could only come from a straight up punk upbringing, what really makes them stand-out is the way they are delivered and the music canvas surrounding them. The band touch on a huge variety of influences but the most obvious lie within the post-punk bands of the 1980s as every note is drowning in reverb and songs have such a dreamlike quality that it often does feel like you are hearing Lucinda’s own thoughts or listening to an audiobook of her diary. If Robert Smith got really pissed off with the state of the world rather than being sad about it, Cultdreams is probably what it would sound like. One listen to ‘Flowers on Their Grave’ should be enough to hear it. The track has all the layered lusciousness of The Cure, but the anger at losing a friend too young just overpowers everything else. 

The expansion of Cultdreams sound on Things That Hurt becomes clear from the offset with ‘Born an Underdog, Still Living One’ as the band lean much more into shoegaze territory, even pushing into something closer to Danish blackgaze band Møl with their aggressive yet surprisingly bright racket. Even on ‘Not My Generation’, a song overflowing with anger and bitterness about the current outlook for Britain and the world, there is still a beauty in the sound that tracks it, giving the album the feel of the fever-dream we all wish we were currently living in. In amongst these dreamscape are still moment where the anger and  frustration seems to boil over completely as Lucinda’s vocals are spat with such disdain on ‘Repent, Regress’ that with a change of guitar tone you could slip it in amongst an hardcore album. It even comes ready made with a break-down outro. 

It is also clear how much love and effort has gone into the production of the record. Everything is leveled perfectly and sounds simply luscious.  With songs this dense sounds can quite easily become muddled yet that is never the case here. ‘We Never Rest’ is allowed all the room it needs to breathe with guest vocalists Katie and David from TWIABP; and ‘Statement’s conversely stark and bare sound, where fingers sliding across the fretboard are clearly audible, allows for the super-effective presentation of the song’s subject matter of Lucinda being tired of women being harrassed within the music industry and the wider world.

‘Things That Hurt’ represents a huge step forward for a band who had already marked themselves out as a special prospect with the release of their debut album two years ago. Punky shoegaze sounds like an odd combination in theory, however in the hands of Cultdreams, it works beautifully to create one of the standout albums of the year so far.

Rating: 8.5/10

Recommended Tracks: ‘Not My Generation’, ‘Flowers on Their Grave’

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