Cults' packed show at Club Congress on Sunday was—despite little in the way of new material—a promising introduction to the band's next phase, signaling a shift toward cutting and catchy dance-rock.
For one thing, Cults is much more fun in concert than one would expect based on the carefully constructed anonymity surrounding the band's early days (including hair-obscured faces on an album cover).
But more impressive, while the poppy shoegaze of the band's not-yet-a-year-old debut album is still there, it's been transformed into a more-danceable sound, rhythmically flushed out with authoritative drumming and bass lines. Add in a kick-ass projector and light show (the kind that's rare for Club Congress, but expected in much-larger venues), and Cults' year-two incarnation is party-ready, confident and clearly well-seasoned onstage.
In a tight and quick 45-minute set, the band played eight songs from the self-titled debut, two nonalbum songs and an excellent cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows," which turned the languid menace of the original into spooky gothic electronica. "The Curse" was the highlight of the nonalbum tracks, a quick-burning and edgy cut that backs away from the debut album's dreamy reverb.
Still, the songs that first earned Cults the attention of Columbia Records and subsequently became hits are what amped the crowd's pulse. Cults' album-opening one-two punch of "Abducted" (with the call-and-response girl/boy vocals) and "Go Outside" (with its indelible chiming melody) were split to anchor the set's beginning and end, while "Oh My God," "Walk At Night" and "Rave On" slid perfectly into more-surging, club-type dance anthems.
What was initially a home-recording project of guitarist Brian Oblivion and vocalist Madeline Follin has grown to become worthy of the Cults' quick ascendancy. With the backing of a full band (drummer Mark Deriso, bassist Nathan Aguilar and guitarist/keyboardist Gabe Rodriguez), Cults' songs are full of insistent, low-end rhythm. The band's future sounds less like shoegazey, revivalist pop, and more like propulsive and melodic dance-rock.