The Cult frontman has embraced everything from post-punk glam to pseudo-metal toughness, before finally settling comfortably into the plus-sized, Native American-themed throne of bloated rock-poet/beard enthusiast/fraud Jim Morrison.This is the version of Ian Astbury that recorded The Cult‘s newest album, “Choice Of Weapon” (the 2009 version of Astbury that declared The Cult would never release another full-length album was evidently fucking with us). The only real difference between dear, departed Jim and Ian is that The Cult, unlike The Doors (and even the Astbury-fronted, semi-fossilized version of that same band), truly make you believe in their whole native American/New Age spiritualist schtick. Authenticity in rock music, as in anything important, is critical. So while I can honestly tell you that I’m still enamoured with Ian‘s slick, post-punk pirate phase, circa. ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ and ‘Fire Woman’, I can, with equal honesty, tell you that “Choice Of Weapon” is a perfectly listenable return to form for The Cult, free of Doors-taint and with a few important things to say
“Choice Of Weapon” isn’t exactly an (r)evolution in The Cult‘s sound. The band’s heavy-blues/hard rock sound is pretty much as you remember it, and is perhaps best illustrated by songs like the chugging opener ‘Honey From a Knife’ and the rather excellent ‘Lucifer’. Astbury‘s voice is in top form.It’s one of rock’s more potent substances, and the fact that its effectively gone unchanged for the past 20 years or so is probably The Cult‘s greatest asset. The band’s more soulful ballads (The Cult don’t seem to write songs about girls any more, so these are nature/big-idea ballads more than anything else) certainly do the job of mixing up the tracklist, but they’re also the weakest songs on the album. Don’t get me wrong, Astbury and co. can still deliver the goods; it’s just that The Cult work best when they’re pushing the listener forward, and tracks like the meditative, sprechgesang ‘Wilderness Now’ don’t do a great job of keeping your attention.
Lyrically, the band’s focus is largely on issues of spiritual bankruptcy and our connection (or lack thereof) to the primal wilderness heart in all of us. It makes for some potent listening, and brings me back to the notion of authenticity. Astbury actually believes this stuff. He’s completely embraced this ‘wolf-child’ identity and honestly believes we’re losing touch with something important. He’s probably right, which is to say he’s definitely right. So while I’m still raising an eyebrow whenever I see Ian‘s feathery-cowboy hat regalia in whatever rock rag he’s turned up in, “Choice Of Weapon” is an intellectually deep album, full of plenty of good lyrics, and a message worth hearing.
It’s been said by naysayers and rock critics alike that The Cult haven’t had a decent album in the better part of a decade (or more!) and I wouldn’t exactly disagree with them. It doesn’t help that Ian Astbury has occasionally ditched the band to go LARP’ing with the remaining Doors. But “Choice Of Weapon” is a worthy entry to their discography, and stands up next to “Electric” and “Love” as some of the band’s finest work. Guess I can give Ian a break about the Morrison connection for now.