Truthfully, I’ve never been a big fan of the post-punk non-bluesy British rock scene. Too cold by half for me both musically and vocally. (Thinking Smiths here as well.)
But even though I wasn’t a particularly big fan, on a recent visit, my chiropractor and great music lover (and follower of this blog) Dr. Jean-Marc suggested I listen to The Cure. And after a little resistance on my part, I thought, hmm, well, why not? Why not go explore their stuff? And it turned out that I knew, and liked, a few more of their songs than I thought. So, here’s my six-pack. I hope Jean-Marc digs it.
But first, a little history (from their website): “It all started in 1976 as Easy Cure, formed by Robert Smith (vocals, guitar) along with schoolmates Michael Dempsey (bass), Lol Tolhurst (drums), and local guitar hero Porl Thompson.
They began writing and demoing their own songs almost immediately, playing throughout 1977 in Southern England to an ever-growing army of fans. In 1978 the ‘Easy’ was dropped, along with Paul, and an eager trio now known simply as The Cure were quickly signed to Chris Parry’s new Fiction label.
In May 1979 their debut album Three Imaginary Boys was released to great acclaim, and as the band toured extensively around the UK, the singles “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” were released.’
What really surprised me was the breadth of their catalog. According to Wikipedia, they have released 13 studio albums, 5 live albums, 12 compilation albums, 10 extended plays, and 37 singles. They have also released 10 video albums and 43 music videos. That is a shitload of stuff.
The song that Jean-Marc encouraged me to first give a spin is called, “10:15 Saturday Night.” It was, in fact, the opening cut from Three Imaginary Boys. It was “written by Robert Smith at the age of 16 one evening while sitting at the kitchen table feeling ‘utterly morose’ watching the tap dripping and drinking his dad’s homemade beer.” (Ah, adolescence. We’ve all been there yes? – ME.)
One of the things I found interesting in reading about Smith is that he is a baby boomer and grew up with a lot of the same music I did – Hendrix, Beatles, Stones, etc. And yet, like the Talking Heads who had similar influences, The Cure came out sounding like none of those bands.
That said, they are certainly capable of some really nice, melodic pop. Don’t let Smith’s goth look throw you off. Here’s the eminently groovable “Just Like Heaven.”
I don’t know if that song is about Smith’s wife but it might well be. Remarkably (for show biz) he’s been married to the same woman, Mary Poole for 34 years and has known her since he was 14. Any couple that can sustain a relationship that long in the rock world has to get some major credit.
After my discussion about The Cure, I was trying to think of what songs I knew by them. “Wasn’t there something about Spiderman,” I asked myself? (See I kinda know their songs but not having followed them, very few titles.) It turns out (as many of you doubtless know), it’s called “Lullaby.” It’s actually more Tim Burton than an actual lullaby Smith would sing to his kids if he had any:
A movement in the corner of the room!
And there is nothing I can do
When I realize with fright
That the spiderman is having me for dinner tonight!
“In Between Days” is another tune that shows their (for me) somewhat surprising pop sensibility. Smith has said he didn’t much like his voice but I guess he was the last man standing in the band who could carry a tune. I don’t know if it’s the heavy British accent but it’s certainly an acquired taste.
It’s interesting to me that the band has been sometimes labeled a “goth” band due to Smith’s makeup. I don’t even know what goth rock is. They’ve also been labeled (since labels are crucial), as post-punk, alternative rock and new wave. There used to be entire alternative rock stations. By alternative rock, I always took it to mean “No Chuck Berry,” and “no fucking blues.” That is probably why I had a hard time finding my way into some of these bands.
“Fascination Street” was inspired by an alcoholic night in New Orleans. Great, thudding bass/drum thing going on here:
The Cure have been influential on a number of bands including Interpol and the Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan has named them as a primary influence. And of course, Trent Reznor, who in 2019, nominated them to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Always nice to see actual rock bands get nominated.)
“The first album I heard,” says the NIN frontman, ‘was The Head on the Door and I hadn’t heard anything like it before. A lot of darkness I heard in my head was coming back at me through the speakers and that blew my mind. It was like this music was written just for me.”
The Cure have not released any new material since 2008 which is an eternity in the world of music. According to their website, they’ll be doing a fall tour of Europe ending at Wembly.
I’ll end this quite enjoyable musical mystery tour with the Cure playing “A Forest” at the HOF. Very goth-y!
There’s a few extra goodies on the Spotify list.