UK’s post-punk scene has always had a directness to it. The acts are loud, bold, and downright entertaining. Right from the founders such as Gang of Four, to the defining underground acts like The Chameleons, they all wore their emotions on their sleeves and spoke about issues which they came across in daily life. Cultdreams are the latest chapter in this rich history, and if Things That Hurt is any indication of the band’s potential, they might just go the distance of those that came before them.
Starting off as Kamikaze Girls in 2011, the duo of vocalist/guitarist Lucinda Livingstone and drummer Conor Dawson, released an EP and a full-length in Seafoam, before deciding to change their name to Cultdreams earlier this year. Originally named after the novel/movie of the same name, they decided to change it when they realized its ties with World War II. When quizzed about the name change, the band went on to quote ‘It’s still us, but it’s a different vibe.’ Things That Hurt clearly is a different animal compared to Seafoam, with a much darker undertone, while keeping the raw emotional tone of the debut.
Just as the opening melodic riffs of “Born An Underdog” kick in, they manage to build an emotional foundation for the rest of the album to build upon. When coupled with the warm shoegaze sound that envelops the record throughout its 36-minute playtime, it results in a versatile and memorable album. But the real highlight of Things That Hurt is Lucinda’s vocal deliveries. Showcasing multiple facets, from the straight-up punk in “Not My Generation,” to the grief-laden, nearly spoken-not-sung delivery on “Statement,” highlighting both her anger and powerlessness. Another strength is the long partnership Lucinda and Conor have shared. They clearly know each other perfectly, and this shines on tracks such as “Flowers On Their Grave.” The track sees the duo feed off each others energy, as Lucinda packs up the riffs – Conor brings intensity with the drums, as the former goes on to a subtler emotional passage – the latter drops to a minimalistic beat.
The experience of the musicians further shines on how grandiose it feels, despite being a very tightly-knit record. Besides the album closer in “Toxins,” no other track breaches the four-minute mark, and yet all of them manage to showcase a wide array of emotions. A part of the credit for this must also go to the stellar production by Bob Cooper, which ensures an excellent balance between the tight closed post-punk sound and the dreamy, open indie sound. “We Never Rest”, besides being one of the most memorable tracks on the album, is also a perfect example for the stellar production on display. The song sees the punchy delivery of the duo placed on the backend as the dreamy chorus lines by guests Katie Dvorak (of The World Is A Beautiful Place) and David F. Bello (of I Am No Longer Afraid To Die) are allowed to breathe in the frontend of the mix.
Cultdreams are still a post-punk band at the very base, but with Things That Hurt, they smartly pivot into a fascinating shoegaze/indie territory while staying free of any classic stereotypical tropes. This is an album that is truly their own, and hopefully, it will provide Cultdreams a platform to build upon in the coming years.