Cultdreams - Things That Hurt | Album Review

Regardless of the limitless and bountiful joy that the human experience provides, it’s inevitable that we all experience excruciating trauma and tragedy at points within our own lifespans. After all, as the old saying goes, existence is pain. Whilst some artists create art that provides an escape and distraction from the relentless agony that’s synonymous with life, others utilise it, using it as the inspirational fuel to power their own endeavours and art. One such act that has become renowned for utilising their experienced trauma for fantastic effect are Cultdreams.

A duo formed of friendship, collaboration and shared trauma, the group demanded attention in 2017 with their fantastic debut long play Seafoam. Bristling with kinetic fluidity, the record was a raw, unflinching and deeply personal exploration of abuse, rampant xenophobia, misogyny and mental health. However, with the aforementioned debut only being approximately two years old, it feels like the group are already making a fresh start of their career with their sophomore album Things That Hurt. Whilst Seafoam is undeniably a stellar piece of work, Things That Hurt see Cultdreams tread new water and explore new sonic landscapes all whist reinitiating and amplifying everything that made Seafoam such a harrowing and captivating listen.

As the dawning synths open the slow burning yet poignant introduction of ‘Born An Underdrog’ it swiftly becomes clear that this a record of a claustrophobic atmosphere, one of reverb soaked urgency. Such a fact simply becomes inescapable as the introduction plunges into the immediate haste of the politically charged and deeply personal poetry of ‘Not My Generation’, a track that see’s Cultdreams at their most scathing. Whilst Cultdreams have never been ones to hide behind metaphorical or flowery prose, the sheer amount of intimate energy is striking within Things That Hurt. There are no secrets or vague statements within this record, with frontwoman Lucinda Livngstone addressing her experienced trauma and hatred towards our current sociopolitical climate with unflinching, unyielding and empowering honesty. It’s raw passion at it’s most intimate and intense, with Livingstone channeling her trauma in a fashion that’s utterly unparalleled.

In relation, much like it’s respective preceding counterparts, Things That Hurt is a product of trauma and pain, a record that never attempts to hide it’s scars or still healing wounds. However, the educated lexicon the record harbours is only bolstered by the broad scope the record employes. Whilst Seafoam hinted and at elements of dream-fuzz, shoegaze and post-punk, Things That Hurt boldly entertains such sonic textures and genres for fantastic atmospheric effect.

Yet, Cultdreams never forfeit their established riot grrl tinged punk persona through these sonic endeavours. The distressed haste of ‘Flowers On Their Grave’ and the reverb laden grunge of ‘Rest & Reflection’ slowly introduce such experimental sensibilities to the album before the record’s midway point that is the two toned ‘Brain Daze’, a relentlessly personal track that twins despondent dream pop with walls of deafening shoegaze. From here on out, the record skilfully entertains such differentiating genres for a fantastic contrastive yet contemporary effect.

Aesthetically, the record is as raw as it as bold and unflinching. After all, to add polish would be to subdue the trauma that inspires this authentically wonderfully piece of musical art. Yet, the level of urgency within the raw and intoxicating reverb is restless. Even at it’s most tender and delicate the record radiates a level of urgent vital imperativeness, with the lamenting ‘Don’t Let Them Tell You Otherwise’ and the quiet yet righteously damning ‘Statement’ demanding urgent action. However, such imminence becomes utterly roaring with the two final tracks on this record. With it’s urbanite, metallic stomp, ‘Repent, Regress’ may be one of Cultdreams’ most boldest pieces of work thus far, and the final closing track, ‘Toxins’, an ode to self destructive behaviour in the face grief, see’s Livingstone at her most exposed and honest. It’s a hauntingly and somewhat uncomfortably intimate performance that makes this release completely unforgeable.

For some, Things That Hurt may be a difficult and painful listening experience. Admiringly brave, bold and unflinching in the face of unforgiving trauma, the record will undoubtedly serve as a source of solace for those dealt injustices in this current and abhorrent sociopolitical climate. An intense, genuine and yet deeply cathartic release that see’s Cultdreams channel and expunge the suffering that has plagued them.

Score: 8/10

Things That Hurt is out August 16th via Big Scary Monsters