Cult of Youth frontman Sean Ragon created Love Will Prevail from scratch, and not in the sense that every album of original music is, in a way, made from scratch. Down to the studio in which he recorded the album — built with his own hands in the back of a Brooklyn clothing store – Ragon literally crafted his product from the ground up. He also plays almost every instrument on here, except for drums and violin. That information alone is impressive enough, but what’s most striking about Love Will Prevail is twofold: how dense the instrumentation is for an album that’s essentially a solo effort, and how clean and masterful the production is for a DIY project.
It’s one thing to do so much on a single album, but it’s something else entirely to do almost all of it without the benefit of another set of eyes or hands. Ian McCulloch had his Bunnymen. Ian Curtis had three guys who were great enough to form another legendary British rock band even after his fabled suicide. Shane MacGowan definitely needed more than a little help. On his post-industrial project’s third LP, Ragon manages to draw from the best of Echo, Joy Division, and the Pogues, and he basically does it all by himself – tunnel vision be damned.
This approach reflects an attention to detail and personal investment that pervade Love Will Prevail throughout, no matter which shoes Ragon tries on at any given moment. They range from the shimmering guitar-fueled melancholy on “Prince of Peace” to the belligerent folk punk of “Path of Total Freedom”, which Gogol Bordello would be wise to consider covering for their alcohol-saturated live shows.
But there’s no better example of this than on side A closer “A New Way (Version)”, where Ragon reaches for every tool in his box for a slow-building epic in 6/8 time. Anchored by driving bass – another welcome recurrence throughout the album – it builds tension with periodic stabs of electric guitar and a woozy brass chorus until all the elements finally converge for a whirlwind release that gradually dissolves into noise. “There’s a war cry that cannot be won,” Ragon shouts with his best I. Curtis impersonation, never satisfied.
Love Will Prevail is a curious exhibition of raw materials churned into mysterious and haunting rock that constantly evades easy labels – and one that’s combination of range and drive will duly reward repeat spins.
Essential Tracks: “A New Way (Version)”, “Man and Man’s Ruin”