ALBUM REVIEW: Cultdreams – Things That Hurt

Release Date: August 16th 2019
Label: Big Scary Monsters


Once known as Kamikaze Girls, the duo of Lucinda Livingstone and Conor Dawson recently rebranded as Cultdreams (after reconsidering the history of the term), taking their next steps forward after an excellent debut in 2017’s ‘Seafoam’.

Self-proclaimed ‘sad lo-fi shoegaze punks’, the duo return with more of, well, just that really, on their dynamic sophomore follow-up, ‘Things That Hurt’.

The refrain of “We hate because we live too much” on opener ‘Born An Underdog’ rings out on as the record starts in an emphatic fashion, building to an almighty, driving post-punk climax.

Livingstone‘s aggressive side – which we see a fair bit of here – shines on the politically-charged ‘Not My Generation’, one of the best songs found on the record. Her vocals are more shouted poetry than traditional delicate clean lyrics found in shoegaze, with her disillusionment at the significant faults of modern society clearly expressed across a relentless three minutes.

Outrage is a theme that crops up throughout the record, with the vocalist confirming prior to its release that both “grief and loss” were key to the album’s identity. “We’re living in a country going through absolute turmoil what with the UK’s current political climate. There are so many things going on to dishearten everyone”, Livingstone admitted. As such, ‘Things That Hurt’ feels like it comes not from a place of hope, but from a place of frustration and anguish instead.

‘Repent, Regress’ is fuelled on venom, with the spinning guitars having a somewhat Korn-feel to them, before the punchy chorus of “Repent, repent, regress, repent” smashes through like a bulldozer. The soundscapes that Cultdreams offer on this record are wonderful, and really channel the emotion conveyed in Livingstone‘s vocals and Dawson‘s stomping drumming.

While the band’s more post-punk efforts are vibrant and full of energy, the shoegaze sounds are dominant even in the rage, with the more restricted tracks exemplifying Cultdreams‘ expression of the follow-on from initial anger: despair. ‘Brain Daze’ is a sombre reflection on human struggles with depression and motivation, while ‘Don’t Let Them Tell You Otherwise’ and ‘Statements’ are both tinged with an emo shimmer, being largely limited to echoing guitar and vocals.

‘Things That Hurt’ is a well-considered response to societal problems, sparked to life by a feeling of raw artist intent, and a fabulously executed combination of dreamy guitars and unfiltered temper. Cultdreams may have changed their name, but their ability to create excellent, felicitous shoegaze-punk has most certainly been retained.

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