I may be late to the train on this one (apparently it's been out since the summer), but the video for Cults' infectious single, "Go Outside," has it all: irony, a beautiful etheric melody, retro tones and mass murder.
The band, founded in 2010 by New York University students Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, managed to wow the music industry with this single and bag a record contract which led to the release of their self-titled album last June. They may have also creatively blundered for the "Go Outside" video; director Isaiah Setret frankensteined archival movie reels with footage of the Jim Jones compound just before everybody drank cyanide spiked Kool-Aid for the video.
The clip shows Follin and Oblivion, digitally injected into the film, singing the hyper catchy song, as they dance alongside doomed members. For those like Follin and Oblivion who weren't born in 1978, Jim Jones was a charismatic byproduct of the '60s seamy underbelly--on par with Charles Manson. He led a socialist apostolic movement during the '70s which was headquartered in San Francisco. After experiencing harsh media scrutiny in the states, Jones and several hundred members migrated to a large piece of land obtained from the South American government in Guyana where he told followers he would establish a utopian society. Following a visit by Congressman Leo Ryan, U.S. government officials and members of the media in 1978, several compound residents expressed their desire to defect from Jonestown. While attempting to leave the country by plane, Congressman Ryan and several others were shot and killed by Jones' supporters. Jones then ordered his followers to commit "revolutionary suicide." When the dust had settled, the jungle floor was littered with more than 900 corpses, many of them children.
The mashup of the song's poppy hook with images of one of history's most notorious cult leaders is hauntingly beautiful and shows chilling scenes of Follin smiling adoringly at Jones as he mugs playfully back at her from a pulpit.
While shots like these pack a thought-provoking sense of irony, questions of taste are unavoidable. We're not talking about the sinking of the Titanic here, doubtless there are family members still alive who remember this incident as if it were yesterday.
Without a strong message attached to the video, it has to be asked whether or not the Cults are attempting to advance social commentary, say about the pitfalls of blind obedience, or just using one of history's most troubling nightmares to raise their profile. Bear in mind they're hipsters, we'll let you decide.
In a blog published by Stereogum, Director Seret explained that Jim Jones researcher Fielding M. McGehee III encouraged the project, which was met with the approval of Jonestown survivors. "I am moved to say when we completed the video we were able to preview it for some survivors of the Jonestown Massacre," wrote Seret adding they "expressed their appreciation of our focus on the lives of the People's Temple as opposed to exploiting the graphic images of the final tragedy." One has to wonder exactly how many family members expressed their approval and if higher profile artists could have gotten away with a similar creative expression. Imagine Michael Jackson moonwalking over a mass grave filled with holocaust victims. I heard the band play this song at FYF this September. After they left the stage, people were still humming the tune. The song used to remind me of summer. It won't anymore.