CLASSIC ALBUMS REVISITED: The Cult – “Sonic Temple” Turns 30

The Cult is celebrating thirty years of their classic Sonic Temple (Beggars Banquet). Produced by Bob Rock, the album has a lot is fingerprints on it: huge live drum sounds, choir-like vocal parts, layers of guitar tracks, and a ready-made arena rock sound that suited the band perfectly.

As far as albums by The Cult go, Sonic Temple is definitely in the essential top half of their catalogue. Ranking with some of the best written, best sounding albums of the 1980s. It didn’t get that way overnight and didn’t come out of the box fully formulated. As with their previous album Electric, the band worked their asses off in the demo phase. They recorded almost an albums worth of material with drummer Eric Singer (KISS, Alice Cooper) scraped some of the tracks, while others would resurface later. What did stick was an iconic rock album, that was catchy, hard rocking when it needed to be, and containing the classic Ian Astbury/Billy Duffy cocktail to get you sufficiently blotto. The hippie rock of ‘Sun King’ opens the album solidly, but the next batch of tracks are straight up classics. If Helen of Troy had “the face that launched a 1000 ships” then ‘Fire Woman’ is the song that launched a million lap dances. ‘American Horse’ is underrated and has some of Astbury’s best vocals heard here. ‘Edie (Ciao Baby)’ was the obligatory fourth track power ballad, complete with lovely strings, jangly guitars, and more. Tons of 1990 babies were likely conceived to this song. ‘Sweet Soul Sister’ is another jukebox favorite with another great bluesy solo from Duffy.

Like many 1980s albums, Sonic Temple is surely front-loaded with mammoth hits, but there is also fine depth in this album, that some of the other albums from the band is lacking. The lengthy classic-rock anthemic ‘Soul Asylum’ and the stomping ‘Soldier Blue’ being above average songs. Duffy swaps back n forth between his hard rock riffer self and his to explore sound textures and world music motifs. It’s definitely a top to bottom listen through, no skipped tracks type of affair.

Sometimes criminally underrated, The Cult really solidified their grip on big-arena type rock coming from the UK with Sonic Temple. This album is more than the sum of its hits, but really fun listen start to finish. Catch them in 2019 and 2020 as they honor this release with a deluxe reissue and several planned “Sonic Temple Tour”.