20th November, 2014

Michael Cullen – True Believer: Album `unique and uniquely valuable’

by Arne Sjostedt on November 20, 2014

Artist: Michael Cullen
Album: True Believer
Label: CD Baby
Rating: 4.5/5

A rich offering, this album invites you to stay for the ride and take in its tones. Made using analogue equipment, it has been patiently constructed, is even tempered and makes for good company. In it, you come to feel that Canberra gent Michael Cullen is deeply concerned with the craft and artifice of his creation, but also with the content he delivers. Everything is very deliberate and I was left feeling strangely contented. Inspired by the likes of Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, you nevertheless get a very Michael Cullen experience. He is strong and has a distinctive baritone vocal that weaves through the music, making this album unique, and uniquely valuable.

read the original review here


Tomatrax Australian Music Blog

Michael Cullen – True Believer

by Richard Rowe on October 10 2014

Following a twelve year hiatus, former Hardheads and Watershed frontman Michael Cullen has brought out album number two. Listening to it, it feels like no time has passed at all as True Believer works as the perfect sequel to emotionally charged Love Transmitter.
Picking up from where he left off, True Believer takes Mr Cullen’s music to another level of atmospheric and hypnotic bleakness. There are elements of Motown, New Wave, and Post punk, just to name a few. The various elements meld together to create a deep smooth and all encapsulating vibe.
Once again Mr Cullen has recruited The Church’s Tim Powles to help out on the drums, piano, and organ. This paired with Michael’s heavy jagged guitars and deep baritone vocals creates a breathtakingly powerful sound that is not like anything else around right now! The old school production of the music gives it a great timeless / vintage feel!
Album opener Black Dog sets the scene for the album. Digging into the depths of depression, the lyrics are harsh and confronting, with powerful lines such as “I’m just a black dog, who can’t forget.” The agony and desperation is executed though Michael Cullen’s vocals. Amongst all this is the somewhat subtle reference to Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song.
The vivid feeling of breakdown and despair continues with the airy remote sounds of Believer. The bleak and desperate feelings of isolation come though in great atmospheric fashion.

I walk alone is a brooding new wave anthem. The slow new wave keys paint a hypnotic spacey soundscape that brings out a barren feeling of isolation. The slow deep vocals further add to the feeling of remoteness.
I never knew is a dark and chilling experience into a tale that went wrong! Michael Cullen goes for a spoken work vocal delivery that gives the gritty confronting words a vivid imagery.
The album closes with the rough and raw post punk tune Broken Horses. Showing elements of his pre-solo work this track gives the album a nice sharp twist to the end!
Michael Cullen has followed up his debut release with another fantastic release that takes the power and emotion of Love Transmitter to a new level. Every bit of passion is poured into the music and felt the whole way through. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another twelve years before the next Michael Cullen album!

read the original review here


Backseat Mafia Magazine

New Music: Michael Cullen True Believer

by Arun Kendall on November 8 2014.

Released last month, “True Believer” by Canberran Michael Cullen is a hedonistic, lush, red velvet-curtained fragile and beautiful album. Imbued with the sexual frustration and louche ambivalence of Robert Forster from The Go-Betweens and underpinned by a Nick Cave-like gothic baritone darkness, Cullen threads a self-deprecating tone throughout this release that is endearing. Each listen reveals more complex layers, greater humour and a melodic strength.

A stand out for me is “Broken Horses” – a rousing pop song with a catchy chorus and a deep dark heart. Every song is great – flashes of Tindersticks and Leonard Cohen weaving in and out of this lounge-room lothario performing in a haze of smoke and whiskey. You can buy this album through Cullen’s website.

Who is Michael Cullen? He apparently played in a number of post punk bands in Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s including No Man’s Land, The Hardheads and Watershed. He released well-received a solo album in 2002, and “True Believer” represents a very welcome return. He recorded this album with Tim Powles, drummer for another Backseat Mafia favourite, The Church.

read the original review here


Leading Us Absurd Blog

Review: True Believer – Michael Cullen

by Matt Satterfield on December 8 2014.

“I asked Leonard Cohen, how lonely does it get?” Michael Cullen wonders on the opening track, “Black Dog” of True Believer. Listening to True Believer, it makes sense that he would ask Cohen about loneliness because it is Cohen’s shadow that hangs over the album. The cold, dense sound recalls some of Cohen’s later records. Like Cohen, Cullen looks for answers about life in past relationships and his own life experiences. And he’s not afraid to throw some of the blame on himself.

Cullen might consider himself lost in the world, but there’s a focus in the songs found on True Believer. The music never overshadows Cullen’s tales of self-doubt and broken relationships, and the moody atmosphere enhances the vibe. The organ flourishes evoke a bit of sadness while also generating sympathy.

Cullen started his career playing in several post-punk bands, and while that influence doesn’t appear sonically, it does so in mood and aesthetics. There are hints of Ian Curtis-style self-loathing. Cullen has also been compared to Nick Cave, but his voice sounds a lot like another singer who dealt with many demons: Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock.

Regret is a running theme on the album, but instead of running away Cullen seems to be embracing his past-life even as he toggles between being pissed off and mournful. “What would I give to kill all these regrets?” He asks on “True Believer”. Cullen faced some health issues between True Believer and his last album, the critically acclaimed Love Transmitter. As a result, he was not able to promote it normally and though he never mentions it explicitly, it’s hard not to think of it when he mentions he’s been crashed and burned but still, “as good as new.”

True Believer is a pretty apt title for an album like this. It’s a kind of musical therapy for Cullen. He may occasionally feel broken, but he’s still here telling his story for those who want to listen. Cohen though, probably isn’t listening. “He didn’t answer,” Cullen declares sounding slightly upset.

read the original review here


Nashville Music Guide

Michael Cullen and True Believer

by Sherryl Craig on October 29 2014.

At first impression I felt as if I were sitting in a movie theater watching a cult classic spin off an old west cowboy move with “Black Dog” and as the second track “Believe” came in I was taken to a pop culture video of psychedelic proportions.

This album “True Believer” is one of a kind. Unique in the concept and the diversity of the music. Michael Cullen reminds me a young Bowie on a magical rock and roll ride through possibly a more mellow Clock Work Orange.

This album was released on October 1 of this year. It will be one you’ll want in your pop alternative collection.

Track three “Nothing Special” reminds me of a slightly more rocking, Doors track. This album brings the past into the future and ignites memories of the golden youth.

Maybe it’s the way in which he records the music along with the gift of music that makes this collection so unique and enjoyable. It’s all recorded with tape machines and analog equipment. Nothing digital here.

In the early 1980/1990’s Michael performed with several post punk groups early on in his career but his style is clearly his own and makes sense. It’s the inner Michael Cullen. Major influences on his music are clearly heard in the range of melodies in each song.

read the original review here


Guardian Liberty Voice Underground Examinations Music Review

Michael Cullen – True Believer

by Garrett Jutte on December 27 2014.

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.

read the original review here


i94 Bar

True Believer – Michael Cullen (Speartackle)

by Robert Brokenmouth on 15 January 2015.

Well, this is a first, I think. This is a four bottle CD, and I really do dislike it. However, I disliked it a lot less after the second listen, and by now (fourth spin) it’s beginning to grow on me.

Michael Cullen’s last CD, 2011’s “Love Transmitter”, I am unfamiliar with, but it seems all who heard it loved it. This fact, plus the quality of “True Believer” (I can see shedloads of you shelling out to hold it in your hands, then scampering out to see the man in the flesh) gives me pause.

“True Believer” takes us through loves lost and almost won, via European streets and Melbourne alleys, dashed hopes and determined belief and – a certain contempt amid the vulnerability.

You’ll notice a few reference points along the way (which I won’t disclose) but I will say something I’ve said before, that there are a huge number of talented artists in this country who wouldn’t be out of place in the European markets.

Take “True Believer” on its merits – it has many – and let the songs do the talking. One point worth mentioning is that Cullen has taken his time with this LP, he hasn’t dashed it off; the songs are been carefully structured. Also, the lyrics seem to have all come from a common theme or event, and that gives “True Believer” a great unity of purpose.

Most of the CD is played by, and recorded by Cullen and timEbandit Powles (I bet he got teased at school); I’d want to see them live. Apart from anything else, the use of the synthesiser is way cool, under-stated and integral.

My favourite track is “I Walk Alone”, but you coulda guessed that.
Yep. Four bottles of those tiny aperitif things. Or four espressos and a florentine. Or four Gitanes and a croissant.

read the original review here


The Big Takeover

Michael Cullen True Believer

by Cody Conard on 16 November 2014

Sydney, Australia’s Michael Cullen is back with his new solo album, True Believer. A post-punk veteran since the 80’s, True Believer finds Cullen growing and channeling more of Nick Cave and poets like Leonard Cohen than the moody atmosphere of influences Joy Division and its singer Ian Curtis found on Cullen’s first album, Love Transimitter. Cullen also sounds like he’s truly come into his own here, retaining influences but finding a unique voice for himself in the process, and the fuller and more polished production only bolsters this even more while enough of his earlier gothic broodiness remains intact for any fans of his previous work.

With a little adjustment to style, many of the songs here would have easily found a home amongst 80’s jangle pop like The Go-Betweens and late-era Orange Juice. In fact, although they are two very different songs, Cullen’s “Believer” channel much of the same Northern Soul influences as Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You,” only forgoing Collins cheery disposition. Other songs like “Damaged” seem more like poems with songs and stark instrumentation built around them, much in a similar fashion to Cohen. True Believer is a much stronger work with a focus and a conciseness more solidified than on its predecessor, and will undoubtedly become one of the sleeper hits of the year.

read the original review here


Rip it Up Magazine

Michael Cullen: True Believer

4 / 5 Speartackle 2014

Reviewed By Matt Soang on 1 December2014.

Former Hardheads and Watershed frontman Michael Cullen has released his second album True Believer, the 12-year-long awaited follow-up to his debut album Love Transmitter.

Cullen teams up once again with Tim Powles(The Church) on drums/keys, with Danton Supple (Morrisey, Coldplay) lending his mixing talents. True Believer was recorded to tape and is a smooth nine track album of broody vibes – eerie, hypnotic and relaxing. The songs are about regret, bitterness and a love gone sour. If you like Nick Cave you will love Michael P Cullen.

The vocals are a rich baritone cocktail of spoken word, singing and crooning while Powles provides seamless, charming accompaniment on the keys and drums. It’s intoxicating. I often found my mind wandering, zoning out of the vocals and focusing just on the sound of the organ. It has to be experienced.

The first track on the album Black Dog is a song about hopeless depression. The lyrics are dark, soulful and honest and are delivered with the syncopated feel of a live poetry reading and it’s a great introduction to this album. From here the album continues down its dark path, deeper and deeper into the pain of this failed relationship. The final track Broken Horses is a gratifying end to the album, a pop punk track that pulls you out of the pit and revives the soul with the hopeful thought of blue skies.

True Believer is definitely worth a listen and will fill the void in any music collection.

read the original review here


Rant Lifestyle

Music Review: Michael Cullen ‘True Believer’

by Tavon Perkins on October 3, 2014

Australian singer/songwriter Michael Cullen released a new album titled “True Believer” this month. Recorded on tape with percussion and drums by timEbandit Powles and mixed by Danton Supple, the indie alternative album is a welcomed and refreshing throwback to the days when songwriting was artistry.

Cullen’s raspy baritone voice and soulful lyrics on the album will remind listeners of other raspy voiced poets such as Tom Waits or Lou Reed. Cullen’s penchant for catchy guitar licks and lyrics delving into life’s heartaches and heartbreaks will remind listeners that real music with soul is not quite dead yet. His use of the organ in songs provides warmth to the background of tracks and invites you to stick around for a journey into a musician’s heart. American listeners may not be familiar with Cullen’s work but may appreciate his gritty tales reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s spoken baritone no fuss lyrics.

Some of the tracks on the album that stand out are “Black Dog”, “Black Coffee and Cigarettes” and “Damaged”. The first track on the album, “Black Dog”, asks another singing/songwriting hero Leonard Cohen “How lonely does it get?” Indeed it must be lonely when most of the music heard on the radio these days is manufactured bubble gum pop. The song “Damaged” is one of the few tracks on the album that makes use of an electronic drum machine but uses it in a minimalist way with more focus put on Cullen’s unique voice. The songs on the album are all constructed in a simple way to focus more on the subject matter of Cullen’s angst as opposed to nifty production techniques and sound effects.

The album “True Believer” was released Oct.1 and is available for download on iTunes and Google Play. Try giving it a listen this weekend; it surely won’t disappoint.

read the original review here


Outsiders Music

True Believer – Michael Cullen’s Album Review

by Peter-Shaun Tyrell on 16 November 2014

True Believer is Michael Cullen’s new album. The baritone poet is back again with his follow from critically acclaimed Love Transmitter.

The nine track piece centres around Cullen’s deep and melancholy voice, mixed by Danton Supple who formally worked with Morrissey and Coldplay.

The album starts with Black Dog a dark sentiment about a man not knowing what is coming his way. The lyrics are unforgiving with a directness that leaves no room for ambiguity for the listener. Cullen’s voice does take on the forefront as the music simply follows Cullen’s movement.

The music, when allowed does create a haunting, almost disturbing sound especially in Believer. It starts off similar to Black Dog, with Cullen’s vocals forcing the track forward. The song picks up its pace on the 1:20 mark, definitely the original place for the track to start. The message and character of the song really comes through and we get to some really great harmonies between Cullen and the instruments. A good song but a disappointing start.

Probably the biggest criticism of the album so far is there is too much concentration on the vocals. When there is a collaborative approach, when the volume is evenly spread amongst the vocals and instruments the songs really come alive.

Nothing Special is one of the best songs on the album as we get the vocals and other instruments working together to create a really strong song. Also Cullen’s voice isn’t as strain and forced in this track which allows you to get lost into the track.

After Nothing Special the album starts to work. With some great tracks like Black Coffee and Cigerattes and I Walk Alone you start to really enjoy the album. Most of the songs are really good but Black Dog lets the album down. The beginning of Believer doesn’t help this impression. The vocals aren’t great, as if Cullen is trying too hard to make a ‘voice’.

The arrangement of the tracks is what needs to be addressed here. There is a really powerful message behind the song, something really personal Cullen is trying to get through but having it as an opening song doesn’t work.

After this however the album is great and shouldn’t be overlooked because of the first song. Broken Horses ends the album with a full stop and Cha Cha Cha D’Amour deserves a listen as well. With only nine tracks you are definitely wanting more but there certainly isn’t a lack of quality from Michael Cullen.

read the original review here


Arts and Culture Maven

CD Release: Michael Cullen – True Believer

by Anya M. Wassenberg on November 14 2014

(Independent – 1st October 2014)
Features: Michael Cullen plus timEbandit Powles (Tim Powles
of The Church)

I asked Leonard Cohen, how lonely does it get?

Now that’s lonely… With his distinctive baritone and dark indie rock sound, Michael Cullen is often compared to Nick Cave and Tom Waits but it’s Leonard Cohen he evokes on the first track of his new release, True Believer. The song is called Black Dog and features his typically literate take on life and love.

In my own way, stylish in the face of my destruction…

he sings while a girl chorus sweetly contrasts his gravelly baritone. It’s romance in a gothy mode – Michael’s mood of choice.

True Believer is the second solo release from Australia’s Michael Cullen with his favourite collaborator Tim Powles (the Divinyls, the Venetians, The Church) and comes as a highly anticipated follow up to his first solo album, Love Transmitter. First released in 2002, the album got little promotion and Michael’s career was sidelined by health issues. However, the release established his languid, melancholic sound, anchored by his expressive baritone and its reputation grew by word of mouth. In 2011, Tomatrax (an Aussie music blog) named it in the top twenty Australian albums of all time and a re-mastered version of Love Transmitter was re-issued in 2012 to critical accolades.

Michael has a long history in Australia’s indie rock scene starting in the post-punk 1980’s, including The Hardheads, a band he formed with his brother Jon. He met Tim Powles along the way and they’ve been collaborating for two decades now. They worked together on Love Transmitter as a new direction in indie pop, characterized by feedback drenched guitar, Michael’s resonant baritone and analogue keyboards with Tim on the drums.

You can hear a retro rock tone to Michael’s songs, much of them featuring the rhythmic simplicity reminiscent of groovy 1960/70’s pop/surfer rock. Nothing Special invokes the Doors at times with a churchy organ in the mix while the tempo slows down to a crawl for Damaged, a moody, synthy meditation on being in love with a wrecked psyche.

Your told me love was a fairytale, because you’re bitter…

It’s a kind of ultra slow rhyming rap. There’s a dark side to his work even on tracks like Cha Cha Cha D’Amour with its upbeat invitation to love – albeit with a Halloween kind of flair. Every song has something different to offer, including I Never Knew, with his vocals deliverd in a spoken word mode. The album ends with a bit of a surprise in Broken Horses. Here the vocals are smoother, more pop-ish, delivered with a layer of harmony.

All in all, a raspy, sexy ode to the gloomier side of life.

1. Black Dog
2. Believer
3. Nothing Special
4. Black Coffee and Cigarettes
5. Damaged
6. Cha Cha Cha d’Amour
7. I Walk Alone
8. I Never Knew
9. Broken Horses

True Believer by Michael Cullen

read the original review here


Obscure Sound

Michael Cullen – Nothing Special

by Mike Mineo on October 21 2014

Veteran singer-songwriter Michael Cullen was featured back in March with his excellent track “Do You Believe?“, whose strategic meshing of synth-pop and ’80s-flaired alternative reminded me fondly of both Depeche Mode and Talking Heads. That cut was off his album Love Transmitter, released back in 2002. With his new album True Believer, released earlier this month, Cullen seems to be retracing back to his roots in enjoyable form. As noted previously, Cullen has been involved in several Australian acts whose style is akin to the jangly rainy-day brilliance of Aussie legends The Church, who Cullen has worked with in the past alongside drumming collaborator Tim Powles.

With that in mind, True Believer highlight “Nothing Special” sounds like it could easily have been created during The Church’s heyday, which is quite the complement. The chorus – with its haunting organ and handclap percussion – is immediately captivating upon its initial reveal 0:36 in, providing nostalgic glimpses at Australia’s great alt-rock scene of the past, where The Church and The Go-Betweens set the bar. Gotta love the fierce, brass-accompanied intensity around 02:17, as well. Fortunately, Cullen isn’t attempting any out-of-place sort of stylistic transitioning, as some veteran artists do; “Nothing Special” doesn’t defy any stylistic norms, but it does plenty in affirming Cullen’s continued success as a songwriter steeped in the Aussie alt-rock tradition.

read the original review here


The Black Magazine

Michael Cullen: A ‘True Believer’ in Music

by Megan Felix on October 9 2014

Despite the song Nothing Special on his new album True Believer, there is distinctly something special in the voice of indie pop star, Michael Cullen. Hailing from Sydney, Australia with a few old semi-acoustic guitars, tube microphones and a crisp, baritone-flavored voice, sets him apart from his long list of musical influences including, Nick Cave and Tom Waits.

​Cullen definitely isn’t a rookie to the game as he has been performing with numerous punk bands since the 1980s like No Man’s Land and Watershed. After facing many health disputes and releasing a poorly promoted album back in 2012 called Love Transmitter, Cullen has made a comeback and redeemed himself with a nine song track list of unforgettable hits on True Believer.

The mix of modern blues and adult alternative sounds make its mark from the opening of the track list in his latest song Black Dog. From start to finish, Cullen gives us a four-minute preview of his soulful tone and gut wrenching lyrics singing, “You tore out my heart with no regrets.” We’ve all been there Mike!

read the original review here


The Music Pulse

Michael Cullen ‘True Believer’ Review

by Paul Naser on October 12 2014

Names like Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen immediately bring to mind a very specific kind of music to those who are familiar with them. While Australian songwriter Michael Cullen is obviously heavily influenced by these two inimitable artists, he’s a got a musical sensibility all his own. The eclectic mix of songs on his new album, True Believer (Speartackle 2014) showcases his style well and provides a long awaited follow-up to his critically acclaimed debut release Love Transmitter (Speartackle 2010).

Building his songwriting chops in a number of post punk bands in the 80’s and 90’s Sydney music scene, the tunes on True Believer have more in common with compositions from artists like Depeche Mode and Joy Division than any of the aggressive, high energy music that we normally associate with punk. With hand claps accentuating the back beat on some songs, there is also a distinctly indie rock influence permeating the album.

By far the heaviest influences, and obviously so, are Waits, Cohen and Cave, whose raspy baritone and spoken word style make up the majority of the tunes on the record. The opener, “Black Dog,” immediately calls to mind Cohen; indeed, this seems to be his intention, with Cullen singing “I asked Leonard Cohen how lonely does it get / for all the black dogs who can’t forget?”

While Cullen can pull off this style well, sometimes the comparison is so obvious it seems sort of contrived; it lacks the theatrical, disregard for convention of Tom Waits’ voice and doesn’t quite have the emotional grip of Cohen’s. What makes the tracks where he is singing in this style work, however, is the way the vocals are set against pop influenced instrumentations and full textures, on tracks like “Believer” for example. Here both 80’s rock and contemporary indie rock are brought together to create something wholly unique to Cullen’s sound. When it comes to his vocal style, he’s no one trick pony, either.

On “Nothing Special” Cullen moves away from the raspy spoken-word style mentioned above, doing some more conventional rock singing, and it sounds great. His vocal style fits seamlessly with his songs and the contrast between songs like these and the others adds a variety to the album that keeps it interesting.

Cullen’s fondness for different styles is one of the more enjoyable parts of this record. “I Walk Alone” is a highlight, starting off with a heavy backbeat almost suggesting hip-hop, and evolving with an indie rock vibe. Likewise, the up-tempo closer “Broken Horses” stands out with its solid playing and atmosphere similar to some of R.E.M.’s tunes like “The One I Love.”

For fans of Nick Cave, bands like Joy Division and of dark, moody music in general, this record will be a pleasure to listen to. The timbres that come from the all analogue equipment he uses adds another interesting dimension to his sound. True Believer was released on October 1 and is available on Amazon and iTunes. You can find out more about what Cullen is up to on his Facebook page.

read the original review here



Michael Cullen Releases True Believer

by Lumpy on October 3 2014

Michael Cullen is an Australian singer song writer. He plays old semi-acoustic guitars, records on tape, uses tube microphones and other analog equipment. Michael has been performing in bands for the past two decades and his experience really shows on this 9 song release. He has a distinct baritone voice and a musical style that is truly his own. While his bio indicates that he has much experience in the punk genre, he is much more diverse than a single genre.

This release is his second as a solo artist and his previous release Love Transmitter was well received. The Tomatrax music blog ranked it in the top twenty Australian albums of all time. (I Walk Alone is now ranks ninth on their top 100 tracks of 2013.) It was very well reviewed and created much anticipation about this 1 October release, True Believer.

Michael had some help on this one from timEbandit Powles of The Church. The album was mixed by Danton Supple. They are spinning the release as adult alternative, indie rock and indie pop. Frankly, I think it is just great music. True Believer has the following tracks:

Black Dog
Nothing Special
Black Coffee and Cigarettes
Cha Cha Cha d’Amour
I Walk Alone
I Never Knew
Broken Horses

I feel that this is a great piece of work. I really like the way that he creates a dark haunting feeling with his music. I also enjoy the fact that while the mood carries through the entire work, the songs offer a nice assortment of styles. I like albums on which there is a mood but variety. He does a great job of mixing things up while keeping the mood the same. In many ways, it reminded me of some of Alice Cooper’s early material.

Black Dog might well be my favorite track on first listen. It has a nice twangy westernish guitar with some haunting backing vocals. It has very dark tone to it and his delivery of the lyrics add to the gloomy tone. Broken Horses is another great track which keeps a dark tone while being much more popish than the rest of the tracks. If you want some of that punkish sound, you should enjoy Believer. Black Coffee and Cigarettes is great tune which reminds me of Pink Floyd’s The Wall complete with some great organ sounds and weeping guitar. I also thought the use of the organ was great in Nothing Special.

As you may have gathered from my previous paragraph, I really like this album. I am going to have to give it a few more listens to pick our my favorite track(s). I can honestly say that there is no track that I dislike. I think adding this to your music library is a no brainer. I suggest you get this album and follow Michael on Facebook

read the original review here


Addicted To Media

New Music Friday: Michael Cullen – True Believer

by Mandy Southgate on October 1 2014


Whenever a music recommendation lands in my inbox proclaiming to sound like Nick Cave or Ian Curtis, I’m always equally curious and dubious. In most cases, the artist is simply trying too hard and what they gain on technique they lose in originality. No matter what, I always give them a listen.
It is rare that such an album will draw me in from the very first track and more unusual still that it will keep me captivated right to the end but that is exactly what happened the first time I listened to Michael Cullen’s True Believer.

True Believer is Cullen’s sophomore album consisting of nine tracks and is released in October 2014. The album was mixed and recorded in Tim Powles Spacejunk III studio and Studios 301 between 2011 and 2013 and was co-produced with Powles and mixed by Danton Supple (Morrissey, Coldplay).

Cullen sets the tone for the album from the very first note and fans of Nick Cave will recognise his influence immediately. “Black Dog” is a tale of depression, self-loathing and loneliness which you can listen to below. You know that times are hard when even Leonard Cohen can’t broach the depths of your bad luck.

“I asked Leonard Cohen / how lonely does it get/ for all the black dogs / who can’t forget”

The tales of woe continue with the organ-thumping “Believer” before the bitterness sets in with “Nothing Special”, “Black Coffee and Cigarettes” and “Damaged”.

“Cha Cha Cha d’Amour” is another standout track. This song has great rhythm and talks about the dance people take when they are playing games in a relationship.

The themes of betrayal and loneliness continue with Cullen’s epic organ-drenched anthem “I Walk Alone” and the rather bleak “I Never Knew” before the frenzied guitars and drums in “Broken Horses”.

True Believer is an emotional and intense album that draws you in from the opening chords. It takes the listener on a gut-wrenching journey of betrayal and loss before finally releasing them in a breathless state with heart beating out of the chest.

I give True Believer five out of five stars and really do recommend the album to fans of Nick Cave, Joy Division, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen.

read the original review here


Rebel Music


by Anne Iredale on December 1 2014


Influenced by the likes of Nick Cave, Tom Waites and Leonard Cohen, this Aussie singer-songwriter looks kinda world-weary. If his lyrics are anything to go by, love has not been kind to Michael Cullen. Regrets are at the root of many songs, but artists tend to self-mythologise, especially under the weight of such heroes as the above mentioned. True Believer (released 1st October, 2014) delivers Cullen’s baritone soul-baring with aplomb and with sympathetic production. Long-time collaborator, Tim Powles (The Church) co-produced and was also one of the contributing musicians. True Believer is the follow-up album to Cullen’s debut, Love Transmitter, which got a thumbs-up from critics.

This is more than singer-songwriter angst, with various musical styles complementing both the country-tinged barren landscapes and the urban Gothic tales. Curiously, the album cover looks like an image from a medieval tapestry, as if Cullen is on some kind of quest. Naming his record, True Believer is a bold statement. Given his bleak poetic lyrics, it is unclear what it is he believes in. Women leave; women disappoint; women treat him cruelly.

“Black Dog” looks through a glass darkly in best Nick Cave tradition, with wonderfully moody vocal, twangy guitar and epic lyrics – “you tore out my heart with no regrets”. In “Believer”, with swelling keyboards, Cullen declares, “I loved the wrong woman”. “Nothing Special” is catchy with an uncharacteristic sing-along chorus.

Evocative titles abound, such as “Black Coffee and Cigarettes”, a tale of another love gone wrong, and “Broken Horses”, the up-tempo final track reverberating with more twangy guitar – “we stand like broken horses waiting to be shod”.

Songs that remind you of someone else don’t have to be a bad thing. And Cullen has such good taste. He appreciates the artistry of a melancholy narrative and biting observations. Recriminations fly in “Damaged” – “you’re bitter all the way through” – a languid meander through Leonard Cohen’s oeuvre. A Bob Dylan-esque delivery and jangly guitar grace “I Never Knew”.

If I were Quentin Tarantino or David Lynch, I would hire Michael Cullen for a soundtrack. True Believer is for rainy afternoons, ghost towns and lonely motels or whatever personal daydream accompanies the sound of your own heart breaking.

read the original review here


With Guitars

Michael Cullen – ‘True Believer’

by Steve Janes on November 22 2014


Michael Cullen is an Australian song writer and performer. Michael plays old semi-acoustic guitars and makes music with tape machines, tube microphones, and other analogue equipment.” May well represent enough to interest many who hold Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ many different approaches to writing and recording techniques; Just take a listening to True Believer’s opening track ‘Black Dog’ which is darker and warm, partly acoustic with a nod to the past tonally. Influences can be mapped over the first half of the album, in broad strokes think Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, The Triffids have all infused Michael Cullen’s vocal at least in some way. previously Michael played in a number of post punk bands in Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s including No Man’s Land, The Hardheads and Watershed.

‘Nothing Special’

A slightly smudged musical perception can be detected over the first opening songs, apart from the Michael Cullen’s recording approach, there is a much enjoyed darker atmosphere on numerous occasions, either direct or guitar and drum bombastic, When playing ‘Believer’ I’m thinking of The Styrenes only without the grand piano, whereas ‘Nothing Special’ sounds early 1980’s post-punk waved, on ‘Black Coffee and Cigarettes’ more independent, sounding fine, if a tad over-stretched. Then if you got a band of sorts – Michael Cullen plus Tim Powles of The Church, the album was produced by the pair and mixed by Danton Supple. ‘Damaged’ is minimal musically with the personal lyric taking center stage. ‘Cha Cha Cha d’Amour’ by contrast is brighter one of another ‘True Believer’ stalwart. Although ‘I Never Knew’ has a strong narrative, that like much of this 9-track album gets my vote.

True Believer is one of those uncommon albums most should find solace and empathy within, even if the musical vernacular us estranged the tales of love and loss are universal. 8/10

Steve Janes

read the original review here

Michale P Cullen

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