For some god-awful reason I have a soft spot for what this band does, and the mystifying aspect of it all is that Spitfire are surely not great musicians nor are they particularly gifted songwriters. The one element of this group, particularly their post reunion album (2006's Self Help and this one, Cult Fiction, that attracts my ears is the vocal performance of Jon Spencer. Combining his idiosyncratic vocal style with his sarcastic and biting lyrics draws me in to the world of Spitfire every now and again, against my better judgment and normally discriminating ear. Cult Fiction is the band's third full-length and might just be their final album (their cryptic communiqués and other assorted announcements are difficult to place whether or not the band is serious about having run their course) of what has increasingly become straight metalcore with some noisy aspects and now with this record ambient instrumentals.
The opening track on Cult Fiction is "Arrhythmia Drift", and while it is sufficiently heavy and aggressive sounding, the slick production gives the song a very "phoned in" quality; the opening line of "Give me all your money" makes it sound so much like a cash grab (if this is calculated and intentional that is funny, but does not change my feelings about the song). Thankfully, the guitars and drums sound excellent on "Chemo Therapist", and they make the song a measured, droning piece that makes the proceedings interesting; the noisiness of the track works well in combination some of the more melodic sounding moments which it contains. The brief intensity of "The Animal Kingdom of Heaven's Gate" is quite a bit of a shock as the music is brutish and does not adhere too many of the pratfalls of metalcore. However, the lyrics are pretty lackluster considering vocalist Jon Spencer's other work. The music of "Track Marxist" is more on par with Spitfire's previous work with some noisy elements and strange melodic passages which makes for quite the variation of sound; it is musically one of the highlights on Cult Fiction and attempts some interesting new ideas (see the outro of the song for an example). The lyrics of "Pro-Life" are more Spencer's strong suit than most of the tracks on the record with evocative and vivid imagery, "Well, get that money shot/ Milk it like and LA slut/ Because baby can't catch a break/ When the Botox of his Hollywood ending is smut".
Maybe it is just my finally getting tired or completely over this kind of music, but I found myself calling Cult Fiction uninspired sounding in many cases over the course of the album. There are flashes from time to time and the instrumental segues add a bit to the album. Still, it took me several sit down listens to get through the whole record and actively pay attention to it before I found bits and pieces which are enjoyable. A largely lackluster effort from the group, Cult Fiction might just be palatable for fans of the group rather than a good jumping on point for anyone unfamiliar with Spitfire; but there is enough here to warrant completist's attention.
5.8 / 10
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