Listening to Cult Babies feels a little bit like actually being asked to join a cult. On their new album, aptly named Off to See the Lizard, the band is headed down a yellow brick road. But they’re not fooled by cheery smoke and mirrors. No, with both sound and lyrics bringing up ideas of the occult and conspiracy vibes, Cult Babies dig straight into the uncanny world beneath.
Off to See the Lizard — released this October (two years after their debut EP, the self-titled Cult Babies) — is decidedly noisier than their last release. Heavy, fuzzed-out guitars and vocals are underlined by organ and theremin. The album is consistent but not homogenous: songs move in a common direction without sounding the same.
The album starts on a lighter note with “Garbage People” and “On a Roll” and gradually moves into darker territory. On the final track, “Yes We Cannibal,” the band pairs intense minor chords with lyrics that suggest a serious danger in being unable to “see it any other way.”
“Fuck Money” is a definite standout. Beginning with noise that gives way to a top-notch organ line, moving forward to group vocals over a drum solo before culminating in a powerful ending. Listening to this song always makes me want to see Cult Babies play live. I imagine how their ability to build energy through a song (and throughout the album as whole) in recording could be amplified on stage.
The band’s use of the theremin, particularly noticeable on the intros to “Garbage People” and “Fuck Money,” is reminiscent of golden-age horror movies, as in aliens coming to Earth to suck away your individuality in true cult-leader fashion. Nowhere is Cult Babies’ representation of indoctrination more evident, however, than on track four, “Yenom Kcuf” — 36 seconds of the chanted phrase “fuck money” played backwards over a distorted guitar line. This half-minute of noise reveals an ironic dichotomy in underground music scenes, where anti-conformity becomes something to which you conform. “Yenom Kcuf” reveals that conformity is impossible to avoid, because rejecting our capitalist norm would mean embracing Cult Babies’ back-masked doctrine to “fuck money.” The track is also laughably strange and adds to the band’s cultish aesthetic.
“Yenom Kcuf” raises the question: are cults a form of dangerous conformity or a group of radical non-conformists? It is hard to say whether Cult Babies criticizes, embraces, or just likes the aesthetic of cults, but they are making some seriously groovy music regardless. Off to See the Lizard has me nodding my head no matter where I am.