Setting the table is “I Know”, a parched lament that is more a primer for what’s to come than a song in itself. “I know you’re mine,” begins Follin. Never ones to apply irony sparingly, they follow it up with the snappy, charming lead single, “I Can Hardly Make You Mine”. With full context, however, it’s easy to feel a little cheated, like watching a movie where the best jokes were in the trailer. From there, Cults plod from song to song, unable to achieve the consistency with their songwriting that they achieve with their sound. No other track here, other than perhaps “Keep Your Head Up” or “High Road” properly supplements the heartache with hooks, and there’s no mega-crowd-pleaser like “Go Outside” waiting in the wings.
The fact that Static can be so pessimistic and not totally off-putting is a testament to Cults’ intrinsic charisma. Vocally, Follin is mostly on point, harmonizing bitterness and melancholy with the tympanic bounce of tracks like “High Road” and “Shine A Light”. “We’ve Got It” slinks along with a classic noir vibe, serving as a tonic after a bumpy middle stretch. “We won’t be a problem anymore,” Follin sings. The smarm is delightfully apparent, while the pining at the chorus seems overwrought by comparison (“There’s no one there for me/There’s only you my love”). Elsewhere her youthful pitch grates, as with the ponderous closer “No Hope” and the exhaustively mediocre “Were Before”.
The first half of Cults’ sophomore record “Static” somehow latches on to the ideal middle ground of those scenarios. The breezy, brief introductory track “I Know” provides a satisfactory segue into the unrelenting, candy coated indie-rock of “I Can Hardly Make You Mine” and its engrossing, bombastic hook. This is followed by two more solid tracks- “Always Forever” and “The High Road.” The conversational, vocal interplay between Oblivion and Follin recalls that of “The xx” and provides some thematic interaction with the listener. Both tracks also seem increasingly confident and dense than anything on the aloof, drifting nature of the first record. It’s far from weighty- but there’s enough lyrical and sonic exploration here to signify that Cults has indeed matured since their debut.
Yet, just as the album builds some momentum (and we’re not even at the interlude yet) the bands sophomore indecision begins to come into focus. Both “So Far” and “Keep Your Head Up” are so uninteresting and dull that there is little to comment on either sonically or lyrically. Indeed, they would fit better amongst a Fun. record (although the hooks may not be strong enough) than the up-tempo indie rock tracks which had come just moments before. Then comes “TV Dream,” a hazy interlude which introduces what could be an interesting direction for the band, but here seems out of place and further slows down the proceedings. The album moves back into its comfort zone at its conclusion, and the closing few tracks prove solid reminders of Cults’ ability to write solid songs. Yet it can’t be ignored that the muddling middle section of the record considerably garnishes and ruins the pace set by the impressive first half.