Under The Midnight Sun

Under The Midnight Sun

For the title of their 11th album, British rock powerhouse The Cult took inspiration from a festival they played in Finland back in the mid-’80s. “It was in the summer, when the sun doesn’t go below the horizon,” vocalist Ian Astbury tells Apple Music. “I was walking around at 4 in the morning, and the sun was still in the sky. People were hanging out, making out, drinking—everyone was very connected. It was such a beautiful scene and an incredibly halcyon moment.” Lyrically, Astbury approached the songs on Under the Midnight Sun from a Buddhist perspective on the world’s intense social and political divisiveness. “One of our only options is to go inward and rewire ourselves because the old system obviously isn’t working,” he observes. “Language is broken, communication is broken. We have to forget what we know because the past is binding us, holding us back.” Below, he details each song on the album. “Mirror” “In many ways, this is a karma mirror, which you acquire through your life. It’s a reflection of your life and choices you’ve made. And karma is neither good nor bad—it’s just accumulated. The idea of a karma mirror comes from a Japanese haiku written by a samurai. He talks about the karma mirror being shattered at a certain age. I think the haiku says 47 years or something like that—shattered with a single hammer blow. It also has to do with Tarkovsky’s Mirror, a film that deals with mortality and contemplation, which we were all coping with during the pandemic.” “A Cut Inside” “This is similar subject material to ‘Mirror’ in that it deals with mortality. We all have moments of struggle and contemplation. There are roses, but then there are the thorns that go with them. And, of course, life isn’t simply all about you. But perhaps mortality is one of the core themes of that song.” “Vendetta X” “This one came out of a breakbeat, a rhythmic cadence. It has themes of peeling away the layers and self-discovery, maybe like a private revenge against yourself, in some ways, like taking your life back from poor choices you’ve made. It’s all an internal, existential struggle. We’re trying to learn to be better human beings and integrate that into our creative processes, so perhaps that human struggle, as well as the spiritual struggle, arrive at ‘Vendetta X.’ Perhaps that’s where they cross, and the intersection is the X.” “Give Me Mercy” “The way we communicate needs to be recalibrated. Give me mercy in a new language, the song is saying. You have certain events in your life that blow the doors off—a relationship breaks or there is death around you—and we’re not well-equipped to deal with that in the West. We like an easy fix, a pill or something. But ultimately, you’ve got to sit in it and practice radical acceptance. And that takes some training, a little bit of effort. That’s taken a lot of discipline over the years, and it’s an ongoing process.” “Outer Heaven” “The title is from Hideo Kojima, who’s a video game designer. He designed a series of games called Metal Gear Solid, which are incredible. The song’s themes are quite dense, but it’s this idea of Nirvana or a place of solace that’s outside of the self, outside of the ego. I kind of appropriated the idea and put it in a Buddhist context, but it exists in different religious and philosophical disciplines as well. And I think that was Hideo Kojima’s intention in the game as well—to create an alternate reality. But in many ways, the alternate reality is as real as the one we’re actually in.” “Knife Through Butterfly Heart” “This is about a loss of innocence. Trying to assimilate to a new culture and fit in wasn’t happening for me as an immigrant kid when my family moved from England to Canada—so many of my friends were indigenous kids and kids from other countries. So, I was experiencing other cultures, and new music became so important. Around that time, I was hit by a car going about 40 miles an hour. I bounced off the car and cracked my head open. ‘Knife Through Butterfly Heart’ is about this vision I had during this time. The title is influenced by a quote from William Rees-Mogg, who made this comment about Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones when the Stones were arrested: ‘Who would break a butterfly on a wheel?’ He’s talking about crushing a creative spirit.” “Impermanence” “During the pandemic, the biggest questions that came up were about what was happening societally with all the conflicting, polarized viewpoints—and the whole idea of impermanence. Mortality has a louder voice in the room now. We tend to talk around this in the West. There’s plenty of meditation and plenty of yoga, but finding good teachers is really hard. So, to put it plainly, ‘Impermanence’ is about impermanence, but from the Buddhist perspective.” “Under the Midnight Sun” “It’s about everything—every molecule of experience, memory, potential integration, sensuality, math, physics. It’s all included in that song. One of the opening lines is, ‘Under the midnight sun/With creatures of the wild.’ I get images of the Buddha and contemplating his enlightenment, contemplating the profoundness of being, and it all appears in this anomalous moment—this moment we’re all in right now. But ask me a different day, and I’ll probably give a different answer.”

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