Summery indie fluff with a dark edge.
There is an unavoidable whiff of hype swirling around Brooklyn-via-San Diego duo Cults, but their debut album turns out to mostly live up to its expectations. Blog favorites almost from the moment they first formed, singer and glockenspiel player Madeline Follin and multi-instrumentalist Brian Oblivion are far from the first band to explore the nexus of The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey." But unlike 2010's appallingly lame bandwagon-jumpers Sleigh Bells, Cults clearly have a natural affinity for both styles. The sweet-voiced Follin has a particular knack for Spector-esque multi-tracked girl-group harmonies and wide-eyed, sugary melodies that just barely conceal a hint of menace. (The adorably winsome chorus hook of "Never Heal Myself" gets an extra spin from its Cee-Lo Green-approved punchline.) Similarly, Oblivion regularly finds a credible midpoint between distortion and melody, the requisite reverb is used with admirable restraint, and the album is smartly paced, with change-ups like the ghostly "Bad Things" and the Sonny and Cher-like duet "Bumper" keeping things sonically interesting. The recurring snippets of speeches and interviews by murderous '70s cult leader Rev. Jim Jones during the songs are a bit obvious, however. They may well turn out not to have another decent album in them, but Cults is entirely enjoyable.