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Michael P Cullen rides in from Sydney, Australia, on broken horses and black dogs for this solo album, True Believer. Moody baritone is his weapon of choice as he preaches about how the sweet things go bad. Released October 1, is True Believer enough to trump the rest, or is it nothing special?
Michael Cullen is the former Watershed and Hardheads frontman that has moved onto solo expression. With the help of timeEbandit on drums and percussion, and Danton Supple, Michael Cullen maintains an old-fashioned feel and sound within True Believer. The recording is very specific, as it is done with tube microphones and semi-acoustic guitars to properly capture that old-fashioned flavor. True Believer is the follow-up album to Cullen’s solo debut, Love Transmitter.
Cullen leads the album with his raspy voice, which is reminiscent of Lou Reed or Johhny Cash. His voice yet somehow remains slightly more smooth than raspy. The usage of the organ is a bit more warm that it is haunting, which is unexpected.
“I realize I never knew who you were.”
“Damaged” and “Nothing Special” feel like they came from a tired homeless fellow sleeping next to Pink Floyd’s The Wall. “Cha Cha Cha D ‘Amour” attempts to energize the album in a seductive sort of way. It successfully creates and sticks to a rhythm, although it is not energetic enough to really become anything more than a slow dance, much like the rest of the album.
Cullen weaves together a quilt of brooding mystery. The theme is carried throughout the entire album and even though each individual track presents a different mood, they all reside within the same realm. The subtle variety is what makes tracks like “I Never Knew” stand apart from “Believer.” Ultimately, each track feels incredibly personalized and distinct. Although only nine tracks long, the album taps into many different feelings, mostly the kinds found when time is spent purposely alone.
“Nothing Special” is the first real showcase of Michael Cullen focusing on actually singing the lead vocals instead of speaking them. This bittersweet tale demonstrates how experienced of a singer Cullen is. Standing strongly alone as well as with the organ, Cullen may remind some Jim Morrison of The Doors. It is fairly easy to fall into the music and zone out while listening to True Believer. The rhythms are never too elaborate or complex. Few of the tracks are outstanding enough to single out.
“What would I give to kill these regrets.”
Michael Cullen stands as a solo artist after many years of playing in bands. His feeling is rooted in deep broody sensations, the likes of which will appeal much more to older audiences. The pace is likely too slow for many fans of ordinary indie music. The specific recording specifications play a big role in the feeling that will both lure and turn listeners away. True Believer proclaims definitive darkness as the pathway Cullen has chosen for himself.
Underground Examinations is a series of Independent Music Reviews with the intention of giving new music a fair and appropriate opportunity to be enjoyed.