The title track steams in like Mike Tyson with a grudge, puffing out its metaphorical chest and crushing all before it with its strutting, cocksure riffery.
Dating from 2007, Born Into This is an album which some fans of the classic ’80s and early ’90s period of The Cult may just have overlooked, coming as it did following the latest in a series of band splits and reformations, some six years after the previous album. This would be a shame, however, as it stands up well against the band’s earlier work, and could well be ranked as one of their top three albums (behind what are, in my view, the definitive works Sonic Temple and Ceremony). On its release the album came with a limited two-disc incarnation known as the ‘Savage Edition’, and it is this which has been made available again – sporting new cover artwork – by the Cherry Red imprint HNE Recordings, with the crossed bones beneath the wolf banished to the accompanying booklet..
We’ll look at the main album first, as it is very much the meat of this release, with the ‘bonus disc’ very much as that description would imply. The first thing to note is that the record is something of a stripped-back return to the straight hard rock roots of Electric and Sonic Temple. Longer and more multi-faceted tracks such as Ceremony or White are thin on the ground here, with only the excellent Tiger In The Sun breaking the five minute barrier, and even then only by a few seconds, while most of the rest come in at around the four minute mark, give or take a little. What this record does, however, it pulls off extremely well. The title track steams in like Mike Tyson with a grudge, puffing out its metaphorical chest and crushing all before it with its strutting, cocksure riffery. It’s Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy effectively telling you ‘we’re the cult, we’re back, and we’ve got unfinished business’. Even better is the second track Citizens, repeating that strident, heavy rocking attack but marrying it to one of the biggest and most triumphant choruses the band had delivered in quite some time. Two other massive highpoints are the aforementioned, anthemic and slightly more nuanced Tiger In The Sun and – perhaps best of all – the stunning, fist-punching majesty of Illuminated, which I would put up against any Cult track from the ’80s and invite them to stand toe to toe. When it’s in this mood, the album is unbeatable. Holy Mountain is the sole acoustic-based pause in proceedings, seeing the band enter again into the territory which produced the classic Edie (Chao Baby) and managing to pull it off.
The record isn’t perfect, as with most Cult releases, with the track pulled for a single at the time, Dirty Little Rockstar, relying a little too much on Stonesy swagger and posturing and shorter on true inspiration, while Diamonds and I Assassin cast around for a strong chorus without success, coming over as more bluster than content. Overall, however, the hit-rate of these ten tracks is strong, and the best moments make it an absolutely essential addition for fans to add to their collections.
The bonus disc is somewhat slim pickings, being made up of just five tracks, three of which are alternative album versions. Rather than the dessert, it’s perhaps better described as the Cheese Board following the main course. The two new songs, however, are first-rate, with opener Stand Alone a massive track which would have strengthened the album proper if only it had got the nod over, say, Diamonds. The second song, the oddly-titled War Pony Destroyer, is very nearly up to that same standard, and it’s hard to see why either song missed the cut. The other three tracks are firstly demo versions of I Assassin and album-closer Sound Of Destruction, while the advertised ‘full length version’ of Savages may be correct by the letter of the law, but an extended length of just over 30 seconds isn’t what is expected from the words ‘full length’!
Perhaps the strangest thing about this release is why, even in the first place, the five songs on the bonus disc were not simply appended onto the main disc, as there would still be ample time left over. Nevertheless, this reimagined and redesigned issue is a fine way to plug what just might be a gap in your collection. It would be a few years before they managed another new album, but with this release The Cult were back, and sounding, appropriately, savage. If you missed this before, don’t do it again…