Sunday, September 10

THE CURE



What with the success of so many retro, '80s-styled, British-influenced bands in recent years, it seems entirely appropriate that Rhino Records has been re-releasing a number of discs from the Cure canon. It's also no coincidence, I'm sure, that the band just turned 30 this year. Heavens to Betsy! What must Robert Smith's cosmetics bill be THESE days?

Now, if you'll permit me, a little personal story: Many years ago, while driving with a friend, a Cure song came on the radio. With a voice teetering between anger and dread, she asked, "Is this the Cure?" Upon being informed that it was, she promptly responded, "I can't STAND the Cure! It isn't even MUSIC!"

Well, music it most certainly is. But I'm quite sure my friend's view at the time has been shared by many over the course of the Cure's career. For some, maybe it WAS the cosmetics. Or maybe it was just the gloomy-doomy downer-ness of so much of it. You had the goths calling the Cure popsters. You had the popsters calling the Cure goths. What a goddam mess. Is this what it's like for Dashboard Confessional? (We can only hope.)

Yet, quite obviously, there have always been plenty of disillusioned, disenfranchised, and just plain depressed teens and young adults who have understood the Cure and their particular vibe to the very core. These were the people who breathed in every lachrymose lyric and gorgeously mordant minor chord, seemingly convinced that these things might just ultimately reveal the path to personal salvation - a path that didn't lead up to the light, but further down into the all-consuming, all-concealing dark. (But... Heavens to Betsy! What must these poor, sad-soulled creatures have made of "Friday I'm in Love"? The heart shudders to wonder.)

Surely, for these hardcore hangers-on, 1989's Disintegration served as both the summit and terminus of the Cure's coolness. Just before that time, however, when the frontman/future Edward Scissorhands inspiration was but a mere pup of 28, the band released the far more sprawling, far less-focused, yet far more accessible (for the most part) Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Well, guess what kids? Thanks to the aforementioned Rhino Records, it's back again to work its happy/sad black magic. It has, of course, been digitally remastered, though only those with 20/20 hearing (and is this even possible on our iPod-dominated planet?) may be able to detect much difference from the original incarnation.

So, what else do you get for your $19.97 (U.S./Amazon)? Well, you get a whole 'nother CD, for one thing. Unfortunately, pretty much half of the tracks are by-the-numbers, instrumental demos. Beyond that, you get a handful of alternative mixes, none of which comes particularly close to eclipsing its official twin. Finally, there are a couple of live tracks of less-than-perfect sound quality that I seriously doubt even the most ardent Cure aficionado will find indispensable. One will also find the requisite booklet, which features, alas, not a track-by-track synopsis by Robert Smith, but a general essay by... well... somebody not directly in the band. Oh, but it DOES have lyrics. Yee-ha. Whoop-de-doo.

Clearly, then, the main attraction here is the original album itself, which remains a fascinating puzzler. On the one hand, the band is clearly taking some Talking Heads-esque leaps with their "signature" sound here - playing around with rhythms and instrumentation. On the other hand, you'll find such intensely straightforward and satisfying classics as "Just Like Heaven" and "Why Can't I Be You?" here as well. A mixed bag, in the end? That's always been MY take. But for those who breathed in every lyric and mordant minor chord... this ranks as one of the Cure's absolute classics. The final word, as always, is yours...

[MP3] "All I Want"

[MP3] "Like Cockatoos"

[MP3] "Icing Sugar" [alternative mix]

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