Cultdreams are a post-punk band at the very base, purging 90’s washes of guitars, nursing simple and catchy shoegazy melodic choruses, while drowning in reverb every note of their riffs on ‘Things That Hurt’, an emotionally logic triggering record. This is going to be messy and dirty, and who does not like some hardcore self-reflection?! This is going to be the classic story of leaving behind toxic shit, people and places that do not serve anymore, dismantling triggers, working the shadow, walking the truth, speaking the truth, elevating emotion. “I’m getting help and I don’t want you all around” is the literal punch line that sums up leaving toxic people behind! Leaving is not weakness. Leaving is healing, and healing is power.
I try to make lists like recipes for how to express the interior struggle and responsibility of the fact that what I heard cannot be unheard. I am drawn towards records that trigger me. Records that are conflicted, barely sung yet screamed, shining a light on harmful behavior, trauma, death, political malaise, sexual harassment, everyday misogyny, and last but not least, hope and healing. And that is exactly what ‘Things That Hurt’ delivers.
What first started out as a two-piece named Kamikaze Girls, heavily influenced by riot grrrl, punk or shoegazy and grungy bands like Sonic Youth, The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, Bikini Kill or L7 matured into Cultdreams, a lo-fi SAD punk band daringly and unswervingly exploring depression, PTSD and the emotional beefing about all the shit that is happening in the world. Lucinda Livingstone is the vocalist and guitarist of Cultdreams, a wonderfully minimalist illustrator under the name Bloodflower Design, herself struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and whom together with drummer Conor Dawson is telling her story as honestly as she can.
Lyrically, ‘Things That Hurt’ is an open and reflective record, exploring Lucinda’s childhood, grief and loss, and where she stands while looking at the world around her and realizing how problematic it is for many minorities to navigate their way through life. Using the studio as a tool, producer Bob Cooper creates a liminal space between two points of view, making a production that emotionally resonates with people, on a personal level and a political one.
Personally, with ‘Things That Hurt’ I find myself guided towards what needs to be healed, and there is something pointed out that needs my attention to be worked on. It’s like this record sucks me in a dark night of the soul. I organically sense its fat and tantalizing sound with a load of pace creating space to express the core of something deep-rooted, some sort of common non-hierarchical suffering. There is a sense of urgency, realism and integrity attached to ‘Things That Hurt’, reminding me of how music always played such an important part in my life, kept me grounded and constantly transformed me as a person. Music is transcendence, an other space to dwell on my own fears, frustrations, and what I see happening outside myself, out of reach, out of my control. I wouldn’t be who I am today without music, and I’ve noticed that no matter what happens and affects me on a personal level, when I’m listening to a record or attending a live performance, I’m the closest I can get to my essence of being.
In our current political upheavals I find it is so very hard to define myself and know what exactly it is that I should stand for. In the face of such hatred towards so many minorities and different cultures, one feels discouraged to support all those unheard and unseen voices and bodies, and give real help that actually makes a difference. But there is a way as long as we know love or we seek to know love, as Bell Hooks beautifully envisioned in her ‘All About Love’ study, “despite overwhelming pressure to conform to the culture of lovelessness, we still seek to know love. Life-threatening nihilism abounds in contemporary culture, crossing the boundaries of race, class, gender, and nationality. At some point it affects all our lives. Everyone I know is at times brought low by feelings of depression and despair about the state of the world. Whether it is the ongoing worldwide presence of violence expressed by the persistence of man-made war, hunger and starvation, the day-to-day reality of violence, the presence of life-threatening diseases that cause the unexpected deaths of friends, comrades, and loved ones, there is much that brings everyone to the brink of despair. Knowing love or the hope of knowing love is the anchor.”
NOT MY GENERATION
Nick Cave, referring to protest songs, pointed out that “songs with political agendas inhabit a different space. They have little patience for nuance, neutrality or impartiality. Their aim is to get the message across in as clear and persuasive a manner as possible. There can be great value in these sorts of songs, but they are usually born from a particular combination of rigidity and zealousness.”
The lyrics of Lucinda have always been quite frank and to the point, as she describes her own diatribe: “I’m not really big into metaphors, and I like to find ways of saying things as sincerely as I can. I appreciate not all bands want to sing and write about political and social issues, and not all listeners want to hear it, but to me, it’s always felt important to be socially conscious of what’s going on around me. I think a few years ago I used to shy away from political issues because I felt uneducated about it, but I finally started to pay more attention to what was going on in the world, and I guess you can almost hear that develop across the three records we’ve put out. So from the point of view that I was paying attention, it felt important to vocalize how I felt and what I was seeing. As I said before, we’ve spent a lot of time on the road seeing these things happen and unfold right in front of us, we’ve directly watched political issues affect people we know and love and change our world. It’s really hard to ignore that.”
‘The country that we live in is fucking up everything
Politics and right-wing shit
Not letting other people in
Ignoring what matters whilst investing in ignorance
I wish I never had to go back
I wish I’d never wrote SAD
I wish I’d had the chance to mourn for my Dad
I wish I could keep it together and not burden you
Telling myself I’m gonna change, but I never ever really do‘
SAD is an EP released before their debut album ‘Seafoam’, written about a period of almost 3 years when Lucinda experienced severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD. After being attacked, held at gunpoint and robbed one day in Leeds, her sparred life spiraled out of control. ‘Brain daze‘ is her reminiscence of this traumatic event on ‘Things That Hurt’, describing her fear of leaving the house, the impact on her relationships, the shitty mental state, and how that particular event triggered issues she was not aware of before.
‘And that man, with a gun
I wish he’d blown my brains out then
Cause I feel like I amount to nothing
Like I take up too much space‘
Recorded live by Lucinda alone in the studio, ‘Statement’ was meant to be captured exactly how it had been played live on tour. I can hear how her fingers slide across the fretboard, letting go of any tension from her lungs by venting in her soft vocals on the ongoing sexual harassment within the punk scene community.
Punk was always about denouncing injustice while making sure everyone had a good time thus creating a safer space for women and non-binary punks especially.
The core message of punk was rebelling against oppressive structures like racism and patriarchy, fascism or capitalism. Then why does it feel like punk nowadays so easily slips, as Ren Aldridge of Petrol Girls so eloquently puts it “into a caricature of itself, challenging nothing, and even sometimes reinforcing the violences of wider society. I don’t manage it at every show, because I don’t always have the capacity to hold the space, but as often as I can, I call women, non-binary, trans, and queer people to the front at our shows. This builds on the riot grrrl tradition of ‘Girls to the Front’. It creates a power shift every time and enables people that often get shoved to the sides or back of the room at shows, to take the main space, and not worry about getting hurt or groped.”
‘Always the first to know
What gets said about the band
Always the first to talk
But the quickest to forgive
We all try to write it down
We express then they forget
Always in the back of their heads
But not the victims
And I swear if one more man from one more band
Touches one more of their fans I’m done
I hang up my guitar I’m out, for good
Always the first to know
What gets said about the band
Always the first to defend
But not when it’s their friends
And I swear if one more man from one more band
Touches me or one of my friends I’m done
I hang up my guitar I’m out, for good‘
This clearly brings to mind the ongoing abuse allegations in the punk rock scene in recent years, about the many women and men within the scene that are being disheartened to speak up and hold abusers to account.
Solidarity Not Silence is a campaign raising money to cover the legal costs of a group of women who were sued for defamation because of comments they each made about the behavior of Fox, lead vocalist and founding member of the punk-rock band the King Blues, who is commonly known by the stage name “Itch”.
According to The Guardian, these women felt it was in the public interest for them to speak out to warn vulnerable young women. They feel Fox’s defamation claim is an attempt to silence them. That’s why they have called their fundraising campaign ‘Solidarity not Silence’. The articles or blogs these women published, some of them punk fellow musicians, contain allegations that he preyed on “vulnerable and traumatised women”, often those much younger than him, and that he kicked a pregnant partner in her abdomen.
‘This is definitely NOT MY GENERATION,
In a scene where women are shamed
Victims are blamed
And older white men reign over minorities
Whilst we’re all made their property
We see men ignore misogyny
As if it’s not their problem to act upon their sisters
When they get touched inappropriately
Everyone ignores me unless I’m on a stage talking
Because they put me on a pedestal
And pretend I’m just performing‘
There is power in performance. Could ever my voice be heard or taken into account otherwise? I get hurt on the street or in my house, by a stranger or a lover, one becoming the other. I raise my voice as I raise my hand to defend and denounce but I am ignored and blamed by passers-by, family, friends, and a law more concerned with policing and violently repressing marginalized bodies. Is it that only in the spotlight or on a stage my voice is heard and taken into account, but otherwise eyes roll and heads turn the other way as I turn the other cheek?
We get off the stage, we step down from the television set, we walk down the street, we return home, only to be reminded of whom we no longer wanna be treated like.
Don’t grow up that way. Blend right in. Fit society’s assumption of your birth assignment. Don’t grow out that way. Fill your body full of chemicals. Just lead them in. Fit society’s example of a pretty girl. You could be better if you wanted. Shuffles back and forth in total awe and indecision of what worked and what not, possible past and future scenarios being replayed and replaced in my head while sitting on my toilet seat, trying to shit without rectal pain. Confusion and indignation, exasperation and finally, forgiveness. Do not worry about it. No matter the role you may have played throughout the course of your life it was never your responsibility to handle someone else’s bullshit for them. And the more they tried to make you believe that, the more narcissistic they were showing themselves to be. You don’t have to wait for anybody. We do have a destiny, and our paths may intertwine others at times. But ultimately we are individuals, with our own set of goals soul wise, and with our own pleasures, with our own desires. Consciously, from an egoic level, we don’t really see how everything we truly want is actually meant for us, and how all are related to each other. Do not worry about it. I constantly hear this phrase uttered throughout the record. Stop vomiting negativity. To change the world is to become aware of your own world, aware of how you operate in your world. Is there grievance and conflict, or is there love and compassion? It might sound obsolete but change does start with you. Self-knowledge is the utmost difficult knowledge, still necessary.
We are done with the time in human society and interpersonal relationships, we are done with the time of you just tiptoeing, letting bygones be bygones, giving the benefit of the doubt to someone treating you like shit. Don’t you dare let anyone treat you like shit anymore! Period. You gotta stop giving your power away. Step up and take responsibility. You can control your actions and emotions as long as you understand that you are not in control of how someone else feels or reacts. And that is so empowering. Religion should not be forced. Faith should not be bought. I’ll believe what I want. When I’m out of the dark. I don’t need a savior to drag me, I’m coming. Reform rebuild then tear it out. Reform rebuild and tear it down.