Everyone in Cults is beautiful: those who are equipped with string and key instruments, including founding member Brian Oblivion, are bearded and long-haired. They switch effortlessly between different pieces of musical equipment and riff together like a solid unit. The drummer is clean cut and tight. The vocalist, Madeleine Follin, has a long mane of chestnut hair, and could easily pass for a third mama of the Mamas and the Papas. But although they look cool, Cults is not a group of posers. There is nothing insincere about their brand of music: riffy garage pop, supplemented by organs, sweeping, ambient synth notes, and strings. It's just a band experimenting, trying new things, with an open door for the world to listen.
Cults' sophomore album, Static, is less retro and cute than its predecessor, 2011's Cults, an album which breathed 1960s girl band soul. This time around Oblivion, Follin, and their instrumentalists act more like a conventional band, jamming and writing with the stage in mind. During the taping of a Cults live show for Baeble, Oblivion mentioned that a lot of the songs on Static were originally twice as long as they appear on the record. The tracks were cut to fit the album, but their original, long-form ideas live on in Cults concert performances.
Watch Cults perform songs from Static in Baeble's exclusive session:
Knowing this helps one to understand the album. It explains why the songs are at times repetitive and lacking direction. It also accounts for the album's best moments: the noise interludes of "I Can Hardly Make You Mine"; the ominous synthesizers cutting through "High Road"; "Always Forever" and its tight drum-bass synchronized riff.
It is no wonder that Cults' songs have been featured in both commercials and Hollywood flicks. Their singles occupy that territory right in-between beer ad rock 'n' roll and G-rated niceness. The music weird, but catchy. Take "Keep Your Head Up," for example. The long, distorted guitar and keyboard notes almost drown the vocals, yet the clompy, sing-a-long chorus feels direct.
Static could mean the white noise emanating from an old-school TV set, to which the band alludes in the short track "TV Dreams." Or perhaps it could mean a vision of a media landscape so filled with voices that hardly anyone is heard. We can be sure though that in Cults' case, Static definitely does not mean being stuck. The record shows a band hungry to develop its sound, dedicated to capturing its well-organized energy and preserving it, free from inhibition, for everyone to hear.