The Cult – Electric
Released April 6th, 1987 on Beggars Banquet
Electric is the sound of a band getting a taste of the high life and looking to sustain that immersion in success for as long as possible. Originally named The Southern Death Cult (for both American and English reasons), the Ian Astbury-led band made their name with a couple of albums of post-punk that skewed heavily toward gothic rock. When the single “She Sells Sanctuary” blew up, they started looking for ways to embed themselves further into the mainstream and all of the ridiculous amounts of money that were flowing through it in the 1980s. As a result they listened to a bunch of old AC/DC records and hired Rick Rubin to oversee the whole thing. At the time this was sort of a head-scratcher, as Rick Rubin, then as now, was best known for being a hip-hop producer (as well as Slayer, of course). In hindsight it makes a lot of sense, though. Rubin, a key driving force behind getting the Beastie Boys recorded, has always skewed more toward the hard rock end of things – his beat on Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” was pure hardcore, after all, and he did honestly use a goddamn REO Speedwagon sample on the Marshall Mathers 2 LP.
So, with Rick Rubin at the helm, and some simple classic hard rock riffs under their belt, The Cult turned around and made…a slick, commercial hard rock album. Sure, tipping your hat to Electric thirty years later feels like saying Jet was actually a pretty decent band, but there’s something about Electric that handles itself surprisingly well. The only actual misstep here (and it’s a godawful one) is the croaking cover of “Born To Be Wild”, which feels like something a record label makes you tack on so you can at least get play on year-end compilations and movie soundtracks if all else failed. Thankfully all else didn’t fail; “Love Removal Machine”, released on my fifth birthday, propelled the album to a chart berth that lasted 27 weeks and sold scads. While it’s follow-up, 1989’s Sonic Temple, was a better all-around album, Electric tends to kick more ass.