When following up an already critically acclaimed debut album, the scrutiny can often feel magnified for a band as their next effort is put under the critical microscope. After 2017’s Seafoam Cultdreams (formerly Kamikaze Girls) certainly fall into this category. Their latest offering Things That Hurt almost acts as a commentary of not just what has happened in the two years since the bands first record, but also on how the duo themselves are perceived. This new outing sees the pairing of Lucinda Livingstone and Conor Dawson subtly evolve from their riot-grrl and punk roots, embracing a more reverb heavy guitar sound layered with some of Livingston’s most vicious lyrics.
It is Livingstone’s growth as a songwriter which pulls the listener in, with her lyrics on ‘Not My Generation’ coming across more introspective, as the song details how it feels to have her words on activism being put on a pedestal owing to the bands position. Furthermore, it feels like this record has been a self-reflective one for the duo with songs like ‘Brain Daze’ tackling the subject of depression and ‘Repent, Regress’ speaking about the ongoing issue around the climate crisis. Things That Hurt also sees the band step away from the aggressive nature of their previous output. That’s not to say this record isn’t pissed off, it just feels more stylistically thought through. Indeed, it’s noticeably less raw sounding than Seafoam, with the intricacies of the rhythms now adopting a more shoegaze nature to them. Additionally, even though is is Livingstone that more often than not takes centre stage, Dawson is far from a background player. On lively cuts such as ‘Not My Generation’ and ‘Flowers on the Grave’ his drum fills and hits serve as if to emphasis Livingstone’s angst.
Things That Hurt is at time an absolutely heart-crushing record addressing important and personal issues. Here, the two-piece showcase a growth which may not have been expected, but one which has really elevated Cultdreams to the next phase of who they are.
Things That Hurt is available now through Big Scary Monsters and can be purchased here.
Words: Tim Birkbeck