Michael Cullen - True Believer

Released October 1, 2014

By Morgan Berna

Michael Cullen’s latest, True Believer, is a poetic album that combines singing, performance style poetry, and instrumentation. The album speaks in depth to Cullen’s, mostly negative, experiences with love and romance and the heartbreak that comes from failed relationships. Vocals are typically echoic, smoky and sombre, with his deep voice pulling the audience along in his stories.
First thoughts for title tracks Black Dog were that it was something very different. The quirky take on music and poetry made this a unique listening experience, and intrigues listeners to want to hear more. Nothing Special, the single for the album, perfectly captures the mood of the album. With it’s brooding lyrics discussing romance gone bad, it almost sounds eerie. More of a musical piece than some, Nothing Special features saxophone solos, more singing than is apparent in other tracks, and a hauntingly beautiful organ.
Black Coffee and Cigarettes is less forward than some other tracks, keeping the atmosphere chill. Black Coffee and Cigarettes, much like these vices themselves, allows you to take a break from the album and zone out to Cullen’s voice.
While the rest of the tracks were good, part way through the album it becomes almost exhausting hearing Cullen speak so bluntly about, what was likely, a bad breakup. The fallen romance is not masked under beautiful lyricism or metaphor, but rather shoved bluntly into the listener’s face over and over again. It can get irritating, as it just seems like there must be more Cullen could have written about. While obviously a talented, creative musician and poet, True Believer is an album we can appreciate. However, the repetition of theme throughout got tiring, and in the future we hope to see a more diverse range of topics in Cullen’s writing.