Much has been made of the fact that the two members of Cults ceased to be romantically involved with each other prior to the recording Static. Indeed, it's quite possible that this album wouldn't exist if they hadn't split up. One imagines that the duo's personal struggles were probably not so much of a worry to their major label paymasters at Columbia, who no doubt more concerned with their ability to come up with another 'Go Outside' or 'Abducted'. It seems, however, that Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion haven't let either of these things overtly influence their second album – it doesn't feel right to classify it as a breakup record (despite several songs touching on that theme), and it doesn't go out of its way to provide big hitters.
That's not to say that Cults have forgotten how to write a pop song after the scene setting haze of 'I Know', the band immediately offer up the record's boldest and most straightforward cut. 'I Can Hardly Make You Mine' is the kind of Sixties girl group indebted stomper that you might readily associate with the band, with Follin trying to disguise her longing by shooting herself down ("I can hardly make you mine/Tell it to you all the time.") before cracking and admitting her true feelings in the chorus.
The girl group influence is also strong on 'Always Forever', though the song is perhaps a little saccharine at times – it's the kind of thing you can imagine dewy-eyed romantics dancing to in blissful contentment at Christmas, oblivious to the crushing sadness they're inducing in any nearby singletons.
It seems they just needed to get that out of their system, as the remainder of the record looks to take the band in a slightly different direction. Looking back at the band's self titled debut, the most obvious jumping off point is 'Oh My God'. Many of the songs on Static flesh out that song's psychpop leanings in much the same way that, for example, The Horrors expanded their sound on Skying. 'Were Before' in particular feels like it could have come from some alternate reality in which The Horrors had a female singer, while 'So Far' and 'Keep Your Head Up' also play at variations on this theme. Melodic baselines and rocksteady drumming act as a foundation for swathes of guitar and organ noise, with Follin and Obvlion's vocals floating above it all – it's a sound that fits the band perfectly. Special mention should go to 'High Road's beautifully downcast chorus for demonstrating that restraint can be just as emotive as shouting your little heart out.
Things do start to peter out a bit towards the end. 'TV Dream' acts as little more than a minute-long interlude, and 'Shine A Light' feels a touch washed out in comparison to the songs that make up the album's midsection. But the latter third of the record has its moments – Follin delivers 'We Got It's chorus ("There's noone there for me but you/There's only you, my love.") with a dark, captivating longing, and the swelling final minute and a half of 'No Hope' gives the record an excellent sendoff. All told, Static is definitely worth your time, but it falls short of being the truly great record that Cults will hopefully go on to make.
7Paul Faller's Score