The Cult’s Ian Astbury once told me he hated This Is Spinal Tap because the 1984 film forced heavy-metal bands to feel self-conscious about the innate idiocy of their genre. Happily, Astbury doesn’t suffer from self-consciousness when he sings variations on the lyrics ”Baybee-baybee-baybeeee”; that’s why he’s so convincing. (In Astbury’s simplistic lexicon, all women are either babies, sistas, or mamas, while men get to be wild-hearted sons.) Ceremony, sounding much like the group’s 1989 smash Sonic Temple, is full of more brilliant variations on the theme, as well as Astbury’s familiar Native American motif: He used to paint his pale face red and wear the headdress of a chief. Here, on songs like ”Earth Mofo” and ”Indian,” the conceit rides the lyrics of the Cult’s patented blues-metal stomps (created by Astbury’s partner, guitarist, and fellow Led Zeppelin enthusiast Billy Duffy). The equally compelling ballads on Ceremony all have lengthy acoustic-guitar intros that lead up to Astbury’s ever more intense caterwauling about such primal themes as love, hate, betrayal, and ritual sacrifice. Freud would have a field day with all this, but then it’s probably these timeless, Oedipal topics that make the Cult so amusing. B

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