A CURE FOR CANCER?
Three Imaginary Boys (Fiction)
LP Review by Paul Morley
Aaah! More alert and anguished young men chalking up more sanctioned and sactimonious marks. Do not applaud them. This glistening long player contains twelve self-conscious variations upon the smoothly quirky theme, somewhere between hypnotic and indifferent, that brought the world, somewhere between hype and anonymity, the pleasureable ‘Killing An Arab’. For one whole album that pretty bending and doodling does a lot less than please, and a lot more than irritate. The Cure’s formula is not that marvellous.
But The Cure are not just making pop music. They make things much worse than they could be by packaging this insubstantial froth as if it had some social validity. As if it were going to alter our conceptions of what is real and what is unreal. They garnish their twelve little ditties with unreliable trickery, not content to let ordinary songs die ordinary deaths.
The lads go rampant on insignificant symbolism and compound this with rude, soulless obliqueness. They are trying to tell us something. They are trying to tell us they do not exist. They are trying to say that everthing is empty. They are making fools of themselves. They are represented on the ice cream colour cover by three bulky, ageing household gadgets. Lol Tolhurst (drums) is a fridge. Michael Dempsey (bass, voice) is an upright Hoover. Robert Smith (guitar, voice) is a standard lamp. Each song is represented on the back sleeve by a picture and on the label by a symbol.
Thus a typically dehydrated interpretation of Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ is matched with a Polaroid snapshot of a slinky lady in pencil skirt and stillettos striding along a metropolis pavement. “So What’ is represented by a picture of two bags of granulated sugar spilling over the floor. All clever stuff. All this charming, childish fiddling about aims for the anti-image but naturally creates the perfect malleable image: the tantalising enigma of The Cure.
They try to take everything away from the purpose and idea of the rock performer but try so hard they put more in than they take out. They add to the falseness. Good luck to them.
The Cure, really, are trying to sell us something. Their product is more artificial than most. “This is perhaps part of their masterplan, but it seems more like their naivety. The way it is, The Cure set themselves up as though they float a long way outside the realms of anything we can understand. They are scandalous, fulfilled aliens, and they look down on us. What do they see?
Not much that’ll shoot your being through with vigour or sudden understanding, but they never stop nagging. Willowy songs wallow in the murk and marsh of tawdry images, inane realisations, dull epigrams. Sometimes they sound like an avant-garde John Otway, or an ugly Spirit. Sometimes a, song is as pretty as ‘Killing An Arab’: ‘Accuracy’ (a target over a man’s eye) or ‘Fire In Cairo’ (palm tree in the desert). Most of the time it’s a voice catching its breath, a cautiously primitive guitar riff, toy drumming and a sprightly bass. Nowhere is there anything alarming, nowhere is there anything truly adventurous. Not that I demand adventure at all costs, but The Cure do suggest that they’re on a worthwhile expedition.
Neither do I constantly demand anything that’s going to make my life a little bit better but, again. The Cure hint that they’re doing this and more. What they’ve done here is the equivalent of an album of Enid Blyton readings packaged as reading from Angela Carter. No, it’s maybe not that awful-good.
It’s just that in 1979 people shouldn’t be allowed to get away with things like this (The Cure are absolute conformists to vaguely defined non-convention). There are a just too many who do (Doll By Doll, Punishment Of Luxury, Fischer Z). Fatigue music. So transparent. Light and – oh, how it nags.
May, 12th, 1979
© New Musical Express