Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Cure

The Cure- Staring At The Sea: The Singles
The Cure- Disintegration
The Cure- Show
The Cure- Paris
The Cure- Blooflowers

The Cure are such a seminal influence that it’s easy to forget, or overlook, how good they are.

‘Staring At The Sea’ is, of course, their singles collection, spanning from the beginning of their career to 1986, when ‘The Head On The Door’ came out (note: a proper retrospective would include more of the early studio albums- alas, I had ‘em all on tape back in the day, and they’re since been lost, stolen or destroyed. Ah well.) The early stuff is very much a product of the time period it was recorded in- very new wave-y in terms of both songwriting and production (the drum sounds have found their way back into pop culture, for the record.) Then some gloomy stuff from the whole Faith/Pornography era, when they were all bummed out. The real fun starts after that, and never ceases to crack me up- by the time the Cure trickled down to me, in high school, they had the reputation of being super heavy, depressed goths. The first real exposure that a lot of kids, myself included, had to the band, though, was the ultra-pop of like ‘Love Cats’ (which my first girlfriend danced to in a high school recital) and ‘Close To Me.’ Not a dis at all- the band was able to transcend the stylistic walls it had set up for itself.

So the Cure are an amazing singles band. Albums? Yup. ‘Disintegration’ continues to be one of the ten albums I would take to the proverbial, clichéd desert island with me. Everything is perfect, or damn near it- amazing, varied songwriting and performance (very dense, layered recording that still provides new nuances fifteen years later) as well as sequencing to die for- the points in the album where lulls occur are just valleys before peaks that hit even harder because they’ve been strategically placed. So consistent, and with songs that stand alone outside of the context of the album.

‘Bloodflowers’ was, I think, a victim of its own hype- for months before its release, critics and fans talked a bunch of shit about how it was the conclusion of the trilogy of albums that started with ‘Pornography’ and the aforementioned ‘Disintegration.’ How can any album live up to such billing? When the record finally dropped, I listened to it with a head full of talk about how the record was going to be just as good, if not better, than the other two. Really, the whole thing was unfair to the album. It was also during a time, I remember, where Robert Smith said like five albums in a row were going to be ‘the last Cure record.’ All that bullshit got in the way of what would have been regarded as the best Cure album since ‘Disintegration-‘ again, full of dense, moody songs that stand firm on their own but work well as albums first and foremost. I was surprised at how well ‘Bloodflowers’ had aged, and plan on putting it into heavy rotation when and if I ever get done reviewing all my CD’s in fucking alphabetical order.

Good singles band, good album band. Live? You better believe it. I tend to think that live albums are seldom essential- too many wanky performances and/or contractual obligations to be found. Neither ‘Show’ nor ‘Paris’ are indispensable- they’re both very good, though, don’t get me wrong. Having a chance to check out the Cure recorded live is a testament to their talent, as they manage to make a good quarter to a third of the songs contained sound different than the album versions by adding different instrumentation, with different vocal and musical enunciations. The thing that impressed me the most, though, about both records was the seamlessness of the sets- seemingly a hodgepodge of disparate elements, when looked at from afar, whereas the practical application was amazing. What I’m saying is that the Cure can play a set with a bunch of the pop singles, a bunch of the gloomy cuts, and a bunch of tracks that seem like they’d only fit in the middle of an album. Everything works, everything fits together- partially because of their talent and partially because they make it work. Amazing.

MIX TAPE: Oh, Jesus. We’ll say ‘Disintegration.’

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