A genre-defining release in the Goth pantheon, The Cult’s Love was a bold move for the band, still trying to shake the post-punk Southern/Death Cult shackles and move into the mainstream. This was 1985 though, when their contemporaries were making featherweight pop without substance or shame. Recorded after the success of the chart-busting “She Sells Sanctuary”, Love would ironically be helmed by Steve Brown, the man who produced Wham!’s million-seller Make It Big. Think about that for a minute.
Love is The Cult at their most psychedelic and pop indentured — they would never make another record like this again. The chiming sitar-come-electric guitar riff that heralds the beginning of “She Sells Sanctuary” changed the trajectory of the band forever and exposed the largely unrecognised talents of one William ‘Billy’ Duffy. At the heart of Love are the melodies that flow from each of Duffy’s fingers. It’s in his hands that Love lives. Ian Astbury was the classic frontman — charismatic and beautiful, with a vocal style that was equal parts Jim Morrison swagger and Robert Plant cool, and he could take any phrase and create a song out of it by singing a few lines of evocative mumbo-jumbo and then repeat that phrase ad nauseum for the chorus. Vacuous songs were part and parcel of the 80s. If you weren’t The Smiths, then nobody was going to bother reading your lyric sheet.
Steeped in Led Zeppelin-like mysticism, Love beckoned you in with the dreamlike “Nirvana” and the slap-bang glitterband-chug of “Big Neon Glitter”. The psychedelic title track avoided any hand holding, but captured a band moving as one, the ‘love’ perhaps at the point they’re now at, as Astbury would sing ” spent a long time in this hole/spent a long time in this town”. Mired in the occasionally foot-dragging tracks like “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon” which continued Astbury’s fascination of the American Indian and the bleak march into the sea that is “Black Angel” which closes the record, there lies Love’s saving grace in its trilogy of singles – “Sanctuary”, “Rain” and “Revolution”, the latter burdened with another of Astbury’s empty phrases (“there’s a revolution, yeah!”) but the lush layers of Duffy’s guitar and multi-tracked backing vocals come together to create this elaborate tapestry that makes Love one of the unmistakeably brilliant albums of that period.
The tragedy of Love is that by the time The Cult were on the road touring it, the next phase of their evolution was already beginning, a change in sound that you can hear in the fiery guitar and frenetic wah-wah soloing on “Phoenix” that when stripped of its tarted up sound edged ever closer to the torn denim and rock n’ riffs of Electric. Had the band gone in their original direction, it would’ve resulted in the aborted Peace, essentially Electric in a dress. Having heard both efforts, I’m not entirely sure which I prefer, but the album that The Cult will be forever identified with has been rightfully given the thorough re-release it deserves.
The Omnibus Edition offers the remastered Love album (which makes it twice remastered on my count now), a disc of b-sides and extended versions from the three singles, a third disc of previously unreleased demos (thankfully not already compiled on the Rare Cult boxset) and a fourth disc of a BBC recording of The Cult at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1985. The packaging for the Beggars Omnibus series is without fault. Each CD comes in a replica vinyl sleeve and the accompanying booklet traces the evolution of the album with track by track commentary, lyrics, interviews and archival photos. The no-frills 2 CD Extended Edition caters for the less discerning fan, with just the remastered album and the b-sides disc, but really, when it comes to making a choice, ask yourself this — do you want a little Love or a lotta Love?