Image-wise, the Cult still weren't entirely there yet, as the band photos show. Ian Astbury's bandana is more dated than anything else. But it's Billy Duffy's look -- a Duran Duran/Spandau Ballet wannabe, down to the haircut and suit -- which is terribly amusing in context. Musically, though, on their full-length debut, the Cult were pretty much on their way. Duffy's dramatic, spaghetti Western-tinged, dark psychedelic guitar and Astbury's passionate semi-wailing set the tone from the start and throughout, while the Jamie Stewart/Nigel Preston rhythm section keeps the tribal/goth feeling running equally high. Indeed, goth is still stalking the band's efforts whether the members liked it or not: consider "83rd Dream" and its distinctly creeped-out introduction, Astbury's vocals fed through extra effects. If there's not as much in the way of blunt power chording as later, Dreamtime is still loaded with a variety of moody, energetic joys. "Spiritwalker" is especially fantastic, Preston's rolling drums and Duffy's epic, crystalline guitar not that far off from what U2 was going after, but (arguably) with even more appeal. Add in Astbury's explosive singing, and it's a definite treat through and through. The other strong tracks include the title effort, which may reference the native Australian concept of time, but is more about wearing long hair and tripping on the shamanic vibes, and the who-else-but-the-Cult invocations of mythic America in "Go West," "Horse Nation," and "A Flower in the Desert." If everything is sometimes too shrilly and dramatic for easy digestion, one can't fault the band for energy, and given that they would shortly improve all around, Dreamtime is still an attractive enough listen. Later CD versions of the album included two reasonable enough tracks, the vaguely bluesy (and slightly silly) "Bonebag" and the dreamy "Sea and Sky," plus one total smash. "Resurrection Joe," a queasy, nervous, and frenetic combination of aggro epic and swampy funk, which remains an undeservedly forgotten highlight from the early '80s, topped only by the dramatic sweep of the later "She Sells Sanctuary."
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett