On their debut album from 2017, Cultdreams used musical dynamics to showcase the venom in their politically woke indie-punk anthems which were acerbic, sardonic, incisive and bloody good fun. In the two years since the release of Seafoam, singer and guitarist Lucinda Livingstone has joined Nervus and continued work on her feminist zine and festival Ladyfuzz, whilst drummer Conor Dawson has relocated to Belgium. This has meant that the working practices of the band have altered, and there is now a degree of isolation in their writing process which has actually brought a sense of greater reflection to their work, a degree of maturity and space which their songs benefit from. There is still vitriol here as ‘Not My Generation’ highlights with the lyric “The country that we live in/ Is fucking up everything/ Politics and right-wing shit/ Not letting other people in,” but there is also a sense of musical restraint and a more calculated take on anger.

‘Born an Underdog’ kicks things off and quickly establishes the new, hazier sound that Cultdreams have centred this album on. The opening guitar line has a very definite Deafheaven feel, though where George Clarke’s vocals often centre on the intangible, here Lucinda Livingstone regales us with a biography, which starts with her being trapped on top of a garage at the age of 6, and a theme of being rescued, or at least the desire to feel the need to be rescued, is a recurring one as she sings that even at the age of 25 she is psychologically still stuck up there. Themes of innocence lost run through the album, none more so pointedly than when she opines that she wishes she had mourned her dad on ‘Not My Generation’, a line which pierces you to the core.

Bruisingly honest lyrics abound which, although undeniably admirable, do grate a little on occasion. The lyrics of ‘Brain Daze’, for instance, are clumsy and lack any real sense of depth, yet the mighty guitar squall that signals the song’s peak makes this almost forgivable. There is a sharp drop off point between vulnerable, poignant lyrics and self-indulgence, and although everyone’s delineating markers are different there may just be a little too much inwardly reflecting pity on this song which may alienate some listeners.

‘Flowers On Their Grave’ is a heady rush of adrenaline fuelled punk, and is the closest thing on Things That Hurt to the songs on Seafoam, but with added distortion which elevates it above their previous work. Livingstone’s voice is at its best when it is lost in the cacophonous maelstrom that the duo create, as if the instruments are swallowing her up and she is clutching at straws to survive. It’s in this aural metaphor that the central message of the album succeeds – life is a struggle and perseverance and regret are often all we have.

It’s not all unleashed pent up frustration, though, as the album contains two solemn tracks in ‘Don’t Let Them Tell You Otherwise’ and ‘Statement’ towards to end. The former is almost goth rock in its musical production, while the latter is a plaintive guitar and voice affair. These tracks highlight Cultdreams’ ability to move between and beyond genre boundaries and restrictions to good effect, before the penultimate track ‘Repeat, Regress’ brings back the indie-punk shoegaze sounds. Album closer ‘Toxins’ shares a catchy chorus with a number of the tracks here, not a recognisable trait of shoegaze bands. Herein lies the success of this album as Cultdreams have altered aspects of their sound whilst retaining their own identity within the song structures.

Things That Hurt is an album of brutal openness, vitality and ire. There are occasional dips in the quality of the songs but, that being said, there is also plenty here for listeners to get their teeth into. And no doubt many will do just that.