Lol Tolhurst talks to Anthony Strutt about his memoir ‘Cured’ and his long-standing friendship with Robert Smith

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Laurence ‘Lol’ Tolhurst’ has written his memoir’ Cured’, which published by Quercus both in the UK and in the States, tells of his years as the drummer and then keyboardist in the Cure and his long-standing friendship with Robert Smith.

In the early 1970s Lol and Robert formed their first band Malice which evolved into Easy Cure, who recorded at least an album’s worth of decent material, which to this day remains officially unreleased but showed that there was immense talent there.

In 1978 they shortened their name to just the Cure, and for the next eleven years, they fought through the tough times of being outsiders and drunk far too much, which left Lol, who developed alcoholism, with blackouts. After they signed a record deal with Polydor offshoot Fiction Records and left their home town of Crawley behind, they slowly crawled their way up until the Cure became one of the biggest bands in the world.

Each chapter of ‘Cured’ goes through every stage in the band’s career as well as describing the history and making of their albums, beginning with their punky debut ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ (1979), and continuing with their more progressive follow-ups, ‘Seventeen Seconds’ (1980) and ‘Faith’ (1981). Lol then goes on to write about ‘Pornography’ (1982), the bleak masterpiece that is his favourite album, followed by the psychedelic-edged ‘The Top’ (1984), its more poppy follow-up ‘The Head on the Door’ (1985). He concludes by describing the band’s first double vinyl album 1987’s ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ and then ‘Disintegration’ from 1989, which saw Lol and the Cure’s relationship break down and his leaving of the band which lead to a long court case, which saw no winners and the destruction of one of Rock’s longest partnerships in the alternative music scene.

Lol and the Cure have now resolved their problems, and the end of the book finds him, having recovered from his alcoholic issues, reuniting with his former bandmates in 2011 to play some dates.

Pennyblackmusic caught up with Lol Tolhurst for a brief chat after an official Q and A at Rough Trade East in London to talk to him about ‘Cured’.

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Pennyblackmusic: I have just finished reading ‘Cured’. It isn’t just about the friendship of two of rock’s greatest outsiders, whose vision united the lost and lonely of the world, but it is about one man’s journey into the world and what happened to him. Would you agree?

Laurence Tolhurst: Yes, it’s ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’, my version of it. I don’t want to be all pompous but that’s what it is absolutely.

PBM: For me the part of ‘Cured’ that hit home the most comes near the end when you are in the desert and you meet this old man from San Francisco who says to you, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine, son.” And from then on that is when your life improved and you got better and the next day you met your future wife, Cindy.

LT: Yeah, I don’t know if you believe in the subtle world, outside of the regular world, but I certainly have had examples of that, and that is an example of that to me.

PBM: Because you really don’t know what’s around the corner?

LT: Right.

PBM: Are you glad you met Cindy when you did and not as a member of the Cure?

LT: Yeah, she’s more glad still that I met her then (Laughs). No, definitely things happen for a reason. I don’t think that I would have met her earlier on. I had been to Los Angeles many, many times before, and I had never met her, so it was the right time. Everything was in season.

PBM: As well, as meeting Cindy, falling in love and getting married, you formed a new band Levinhurst in which Cindy sang and you played drums and keyboards. Did you not fancy giving singing a go yourself?

LT: My singing is kind of like my hand writing. It is best left to other people.

PBM: Did you ever keep diaries while you were growing up?

LT: No, the only thing I ever had like that when I was about ten. It just said, “Went to school, came home, went to school, came home,” and that was about it.

PBM: How long did it take to write the book and research it?

LT: I spent all of 2015 writing it. I decided to do it though in 2013, and started to do the research and get the ideas and to take some of the photographs back then. It took a couple of years basically.

PBM: You met Robert Smith when you were five years old.

LT: Right.

PBM: And you lived in Horley. Is that in Surrey or Sussex?

LT: It is in Surrey. There is Gatwick Airport in the middle with Horley on one side and Crawley. Crawley is in Sussex. Simon Gallup and I came from Horley but Robert lived in Crawley.

PBM: When the punk scene came along, did you find that you wasn’t really exposed to it as much as you would have been in London because you were based there?

LT: We had to go and find it a bit. Some bands did, however, come to Crawley. I remember the Clash came to play, and it was just a huge riot. Suicide were opening for them. I always remember this skinhead getting up and trying to do something to Suicide, and Joe Strummer came out and said, “Stop doing this. You are being really stupid. Let them play!” That’s when I noticed you had the power to do something good, rather then something stupid with music.

PBM: After a brief deal with Hansa, you signed to Fiction. How did you first meet Chris Parry then?

LT: We met him because we sent him a tape and he worked for Polydor, so he called us up and said that he liked what we were doing. We met him at The Lamb and Flag at St Christopher Place which is at the back of Oxford Street.

PBM: I believe that you never liked the artwork for ‘Three Imaginary Boys’.

LT: Right. It was something that we set up, but then we didn’t like it and it wasn’t really us.

PB: So after that you took back control?

LT: We had a couple of people involved in the artwork initially but we got one person to take over which was much better because it was then all in house really.

PBM: ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ is punky but it was quite different from most bands associated with punk. Do you think it sounded different because having been in Malice and Easy Cure first you had the time to grow?

LT: Yeah, absolutely, and we didn’t live in London. We were outside, and -I write about it in the book – the things that influenced us were the asylums and the countryside, and all that’s there.

PBM: ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is my favourite album., You road tested it on the road in America before recording it. Did it change much between touring it and recording it.

LT: Yeah, Some of it. You have to remember that in 1977 ‘Low’, the Bowie album, came out, and Robert and I loved that. That is where we pulled some of that stuff from that such as Dennis Davidson’s drum sound. It has a more open sound, with lots of highs and space in the middle.

PBM: We lost Bowie this year. Did it affect you?

LT: It affected my life a lot. It was like guess what? We are next (Laughs).

PBM: On ‘Seventeen Seconds’ there is also my favourite Cure song of all time, ‘A Forest’. How did that song come about?

LT: I had a bigger title for that and Robert pulled the words out for that. We had this metronomic thing that came from that, and what I like about that song is we are like running but everything is standing still. It’s like we are running on the spot basically. It was one of those things in which music sometimes just evolves very quickly out of thin air.

PBM: ‘Pornography’ is your favourite album. Why is it your favourite?

LT: Just because it’s the ultimate three-piece Cure album. We had defined our whole sound, and the way to play it. It stood the test of time, and doesn’t sound old, doesn’t sound fashionable. It just sounds like us.

PBM: I believe the original producer of ‘Pornography’ was going to be Conny Plank, Kraftwerk’s producer.

LT: Well, we talked about it but in the end we got Phil Thornalley in. Later on Conny passed away, and that put an end to that.

PBM: Thank you.

© Pennyblackmusic

Those Westworld piano covers of Radiohead, The Cure, and Soundgarden are online — listen

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Who’s hooked on HBO’s Westworld? It’s no replacement for Game of Thrones, but there’s admittedly something appealing to the dystopian universe, where a bunch of high-paying jerks visit a theme park to either shoot up or sex up some ultra-realistic robots. This writer’s only seen the pilot–sorry, Black Mirror, Rectify, Atlanta, and [insert a million other shows] got in the way–but it’s quite clear there’s a lot of talent at hand and plenty of mystery to keep things fresh for a season or two.

One intriguing bit is how the show incorporates modern music by reworking classic songs into ragtime piano tunes, which jives with the whole late-19th century aesthetic. (Though, one might argue this quirk was cribbed straight out of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.) Already we’ve heard renditions of Radiohead (“No Surprises”), The Rolling Stones (“Paint It Black”), Soundgarden (“Black Hole Sun”), and The Cure (“A Forest”), all reworked by the show’s composer Ramin Djawadi.

Perhaps to drum up more hype for the multi-million dollar spectacle, HBO has collected the tunes and pieced together a soundtrack-of-sorts, along with the show’s main theme, which can be bought on iTunes. Of course, you could also just listen to them below and stare off into nothing, choosing to ignore the fly buzzing around your head. But maybe you’ll swat it, maybe you’re a special one, alright. Maybe there’s more to you than meets the eye. Or … maybe you’re nobody like all of us.

Westworld airs every Sunday night on HBO.

© Consequence of Sound

The Cure sono in Italia per un tour… da lacrime

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I Cure sono in Italia! Robert Smith e soci hanno suonato sabato 29 ottobre a Bologna mentre ieri sera erano di scena a Roma, dove sono andati avanti per tre ore. Chiuderanno il tour italiano con due date a Milano, martedì 1 novembre e mercoledì 2. Gli eventi sono organizzati da Barleyarts Promotion.

Ragionare su un concerto dei Cure nel 2016, potrebbe risultare vagamente anacronistico; eppure, considerando i sold out fin qui ottenuti con il tour mondiale in corso, vien da pensare che quando Manuel Agnelli cantava “non si esce vivi dagli anni 80” aveva proprio ragione! Quindi diffidate dai soliti darkettoni pronti a mostrare orgogliosi «la propria memoria», i Cure suonano oggi come allora e considerando le scalette proposte a Bologna e Roma, non c’è da dubitare! Parliamo di playlist da lacrime interamente concentrate sui lavori migliori della band inglese, apparsa sui palco in grande forma.

Ricapitolando, Robert Smith dopo aver tentato (invano) di produrre dischi all’altezza del proprio aureo passato, pare, dunque, concentrato sulle esibizioni live orientate all’interno di una produzione discografica che non lascia scampo. A parere di chi scrive, è questa una cosa saggia che dovrebbe essere presa ad esempio da altri gruppi anni 80 ancora in orbita. Della serie: “Se proprio non riuscite a fare come Michael Stipe con i suoi Rem, provate a mostrare il meglio di voi senza aver la presunzione di pensare che ciò debba essere ancora concepito”, i gioielli – se tali – risplendono per sempre.

Anche perché diciamolo chiaro, ciò che ci si aspetta da formazioni così longeve, non sono certamente le produzioni tardive, quelle sono appannaggio di giovani neofiti ai quali si chiede costantemente di compiere uno sforzo, non soltanto nel cotonarsi i capelli ma soprattutto per studiare sistematicamente e filologicamente certa musica.

 Ma che tipo di fauna attrae, al giorno d’oggi, un live di Robert Smith? Immaginare un folto pubblico di ultra quarantenni non è un azzardo, sebbene anche le nuove generazioni, soprattutto quelle connesse alla nicchia musicale, siano estremamente partecipative e non esclusivamente costituite da “poser scellerati”; in ambito esistono giovani appassionati e sinceri, in grado di declamare senza affanno alcuno la solennità di certi versi.

Il rovescio della medaglia è certamente costituito dalla figura del darkettone vecchio stampo; viaggia intorno ai cinquanta e siccome gli anni 80 li ha vissuti da protagonista, ritiene di poter declamare gli stessi versi come nessun altro. Ha forse ragione? Di certo sappiamo che l’allure che lo circonda è indiscutibilmente parte di un tradizionale folklore dal quale non è possibile sottrarsi, come fosse un meraviglioso gioco delle parti. Anche in tal caso, esiste in contrapposizione, un esercito di appassionati che lascia ben sperare sulle sorti di un genere musicale il cui denominatore comune – capace di mettere tutti d’accordo – resta inequivocabilmente la passione.

Il solito dj qualunque, in rigoroso total black, tornerà per l’ennesima volta a vedere i Cure dal vivo mercoledì a Milano, declamando a sproposito la propria memoria insieme agli amici di sempre, come fosse un meraviglioso gioco delle parti.

9 canzoni 9… dei Cure

Lato A

A Forest

A Strange Day

Shake Dog Shake

Charlotte Sometimes

 

Lato B

M

One Hundred Years

Fascination Street

Killing an Arab

Primary

© Marco Pipitone & Il Fatto Quotidiano

The Night We Created The Cure

“So the first bit of lyric we pull out of the hat will be our new band name, right?”

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Editor’s Note: LaurenceLol” Tolhurst is a co-founder of The Cure—as its drummer, he helped write and record the band’s first four albums. In this excerpt from his new book, Mr. Tolhurst provides an insider’s account of the early days of the band and a revealing look at the artistic evolution of his childhood friend, the enigmatic Robert Smith.

We finally got a gig at the Rocket in May 1977. We were now all eighteen, so Fred, the Rocket’s landlord, wouldn’t fall afoul of the child work laws or something. Clever old Fred.

He actually didn’t ask us outright anyway. Rather, our friend’s band Amulet, fronted by ex-Malice guitarist Marc Ceccagno, couldn’t do the gig they had been booked for at the Rocket, so, sens­ing an opportunity to actually get us out there in front of real people, I called Fred.

“Er, yes… the Rocket public house?”

The phone was answered by Fred himself in the voice I pre­sumed he usually reserved for outstanding creditors.

“Yes, hello, Fred? I heard that Amulet can’t play the pub this week. They all have bad colds, they asked us to fill in for them?”

Fred sounded a little suspicious, “And what are you lot called, then?”

“Easy Cure.”

We had literally pulled the new name for the band out of a hat. After our disastrous gig at St. Wilfrid’s it seemed like a wise idea to change the name, but we couldn’t agree on one. Robert [Smith] hit on a solu­tion. He had seen something about Bowie or William Burroughs cutting up phrases from their writings into strips and reassembling them into new prose or song lyrics. So we cut all our own lyrics up and put them into a hat. The first fragment we pulled out would be the name of the band. It seemed both democratic and punky all at the same time.

We sat in the small hallway of the Smith’s house, by the harmo­nium we sometimes utilized for the triptych songs we were currently making.

“So the first bit of lyric we pull out of the hat will be our new band name, right?” Robert asked.

“Sounds good to me,” I said.

Robert reached in and pulled out a small, white, screwed-up scrap.

“What’s it say?” Michael and I asked.

“Easy Cure,” said Robert, who looked a little crestfallen that one of his word fragments wasn’t the plum pulled from the pudding. “Easy Cure” was from a lyric that I had partially written.

“Anyway, fair’s fair, so Easy Cure it is!” I thought out loud.

However, Robert got his way later on, because we changed it to The Cure, which he thought sounded much more punky and now than Easy Cure, which sounded more hippie-fied.

I couldn’t really argue with that. I wanted us to be more punk anyway.

“So what kind of music does Easy Cure play?” asked Fred.

I panicked slightly. I hadn’t really thought about that one. We just wrote songs from our own experiences and thoughts. I don’t think we thought about labels, although we were certainly influenced by the current rash of punk bands we were now seeing whenever we could. In addition to The Stranglers at the Red Deer and Crawley College we saw Buzzcocks at the Lyceum.

“Um, well, we do some of our own stuff and a few popular cov­ers,” I offered hopefully.

“Yeah, well, they like to hear something they know, so play some­thing they know,” said Fred, hammering his point home. “Be here at 6 p.m., start playing at 6:30–7 p.m. You play two sets and you have to finish before last orders at 10:30 p.m.”

To this day I’ve no idea what they paid us. I probably didn’t take it in, as I was just so happy to get our first proper paying gig! And so it started. Paying our dues in the Rocket at first to the reg­ulars, and gradually, over the next year or so, to increasingly varied audiences from the area as word spread.

Of course, we had to play some covers, as Fred had predicted. “Locomotive Breath” by Jethro Tull, made completely punky by leaving out the long piano intro and flute(!), was one I recall that was particularly liked by the Rocket’s older patrons.

Gradually we honed our set to include more of our own material, crammed together on that tiny stage in the corner of the pub, and learned what every band must learn if they hope to establish them­selves as a real band.

We perfected the subtle signals between us all to enable the songs to come out sounding right and keep the show rolling along with intensity and power. We learned our stagecraft on that small stage all through the year, in between seeing some of the best bands of the punk revolution.

We played about thirteen gigs at the Rocket. It felt like we were there so often we were practically the house band. At every gig there were more people, and we grew in confidence as we honed our sound. In the autumn of 1977, Peter left the band. We had played a gig at the Rocket on September 11, and after the gig he told us it was his last.

“Hey, chaps, I think I have a different calling. I’m, um, off to a kibbutz in Israel.”

“Really?” I asked him somewhat incredulously. “That’s what you want to do?”

“Yeah Lol, that’s the plan.”

I was a little stunned. After all, we were just getting properly started. In retrospect it had been obvious the last few months that his heart wasn’t in it anymore. We wished him luck and looked around for another singer to replace him. It was frustrating, to say the least. We were starting to express our own ideas, finding our own raison d’être, and now we were in desperate need of a good front man to convey that to audiences who didn’t know us at all.

Then Robert did something that really changed the whole course of The Cure. Up until then I don’t think Robert had thought about being the guitarist and the singer, but I think he realized right then, when Peter left, that if he was going to make a difference in this world, if he was going to be able to get across what he wanted to say, he would have to be the front man, he would have to take that on.

I have a theory. There comes a day when every single one of us is confronted with the abyss. Sometimes it’s a heart-wrenching breakup. Sometimes it’s the loss of a loved one. Some have it early and some people get it late, but we all have that moment when we look down and there’s nothing fucking there. People want their rock stars to go further out on the edge and hang out there for a bit, take a good long look at that abyss, and then transmit what they find there through their art.

Ian Curtis did it. Kurt Cobain did it. So did Robert Smith, ex­cept he didn’t just look at the abyss, he was on intimate terms with it. He had things he had to say about the darkest parts of the human experience, and people were either attracted to that or repulsed by it. He’s been like that for as long as I’ve known him. Even at the very start, he had stuff he needed to say. He tried to fight it. I think that’s why he picked up the guitar, so he’d have something to put between himself and the abyss. In the beginning, he tried to hide behind it. He was just the guitar player. When Peter left and the band wasn’t working right and the music we were playing didn’t match the vision he had for it, he assumed the duties of the vocalist. We were still teenagers, but even then he knew what it meant, what he was getting into. It’s one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen anyone do.

The Rocket was where Robert taught himself how to front a band, how to be in the center of the storm and love being there.

In that dismal little room in deepest Sussex, a whole new future was started.

Excerpted from Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys by Lol Tolhurst. Copyright © 2016.


Philip Anselmo: Why I Love The Cure

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Down frontman Philip Anselmo pays tribute to Robert Smith’s goth kings, The Cure

Having risen to fame with metal legends Pantera and kept things pounding along with Down, Philip Anselmo is not the most obvious advocate for The Cure’s darkly romantic goth anthems. And yet, as he explains here, Robert Smith’s gloomy mob are an essential part of his record collection…

I was a teenager, living in Texas, when I was first turned on to The Cure by a friend. I’ll be honest, it’s two of the older records that most absorbed me: Seventeen Seconds definitely my number one, and then Faith would be number two. I like certain songs off all their records, but those two in particular grabbed me. I have an incredible amount of respect for the band, but at a point they got so popular that I kinda lost interest, which I know is a little shady on my part.

But Seventeen Seconds is amazing. It almost sounds like a four-track recording, and essentially it’s Robert Smith and a drum machine, but there’s a great atmosphere and vibe on that record. I love the moodiness of the album. It’s a perfect evening-time record, with that dark, sexy atmosphere. And Faith is really great too.

One of the most impressive things about The Cure is the way Robert Smith could conjure up so much wonderful atmosphere to frame these great songs. You can do anything in that atmosphere: burn some candles, light some incense, cook food and hang out with a chick.

Like The Smiths, another band I love, The Cure aren’t a band for everyone, and certainly some of my teenage metalhead buddies back then were confused, to say the least, as to why I’d listen to them. But if they were supposed to be a guilty pleasure, I didn’t feel very guilty about listening to them. And most of my friends were open‑minded enough to understand why I would like them and what I could hear in them.

People might not necessarily hear any direct influence from Robert Smith in the albums I’ve made, but I’ve been sitting on a great wealth of four-track recordings that the world has never heard, and I think I’ve made some music among them that, while not similar to The Cure, is in the same vein in terms of mellow, atmospheric music.

I’ve definitely drawn a lot of inspiration from Robert Smith, with the simplicity of the music and the sounds he gets. His songs are… romantic, for lack of a better word. It’s rare to find songs that do what they do. They have a beauty to them and they definitely touch a spot in my heart.

© Team Rock

The Cure: Complete Guide

The phrase ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ has rarely applied more aptly to a group than with The Cure. Over the past near forty years Robert Smith and his band of black clad misfits have helped craft Post-punk, Goth, pushed the boundaries of psychedelic pop, all the while becoming unlikely stadium fillers in the process.

Despite huge successes over the years the group have never received some of the cred showered on their peers – too odd for some, too soppy at times for others – but for the initiated the band has created a twilight realm filled with love, loss, cats and an underlying sense of wonder. Simply put there’s only one Cure. With new songs currently being debuted on a sell-out tour and another headlining slot at Bestival approaching we thought it time to re-enter the forest.

Three Imaginary Boys (1979)

“Slipping through the door / Hear my heart beats in the doorway…”

Made of mates Lol Tolhurst, Robert Smith and Michael Dempsey, The Cure (formerly Easy Cure) emerged from Crawley with a spiky and tellingly slightly peculiar debut. Numbers such ‘Fire In Cairo’ and ‘Grinding Halt’ treaded confidently between post and pop punk while showcasing Demsey’s impressive bass work and Smith’s knack for creating distinctive riffs

Take a closer look though and you’ve the spooky claustrophobia of debut single ’10:15 Saturday Night’ and the delay-drenched finale of the titular track hinting at what was to come. The guitar solo on the latter may be pure punk simplicity and snarl but with its maundering pace and talk of empty feelings it was obvious that these boys had more on their minds than anarchy and fist fights.

The US market got the real treat however with the next year seeing the release of ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, a reworked version of the debut which trimmed the fat and included classics such as ‘Killing An Arab’, ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’ and the of course the title number.

Seventeen Seconds (1980)

“Hello image / Sing me a line from your favourite song…”

Now intent on complete creative control Smith pushed the band into the void for their second album and in doing so not only produced the first true Cure record but also a genre defining statement and one of the greatest albums ever made.

With the frontman now eager to incorporate simplicity and space into their sound Dempsey’s elaborate playing no longer fit the group allowing for right hand-man Simon Gallup to join on bass duties, as well as Matthieu Hartley to add some synthy textures. The result was akin to 35-minute walk through a haunted dream, lost keys emerging from the never-realm, cymbal crashes coated in so much reverb they’re still playing to this day, all thanks to the less is more approach of producer Mike Hedges.

The album’s eerie tone still stands up to repeated listens today and with the likes of live favourites ‘M’ ‘Play For Today’ and ‘A Forest’ (arguably one the ultimate bass riffs ever written) being present the album still had plenty to hook the listener in. Here The Cure went from interesting oddities to cult concern.

Faith (1981)

“And stand lost forever / Lost forever in a happy crowd…”

‘Faith’ does not represent as drastic a leap in style than its predecessor but more a refinement. The lyrics got moodier, the textures thicker, the hair bigger. Minimalism held hands with the morbid as the dreaded goth term began to truly rear its head…but hell, with titles like ‘The Funeral Party’ they were helping soundtrack this new subculture.

Stripped to the trio of Smith, Gallup and Tolhurst, the band set about perfecting their craft and in the process created moments of sorrowful beauty such as ‘All Cats Are Grey’ and the Mervyn Peake inspired ‘The Drowning Man’. One could argue that if ‘Seventeen Seconds’ was a ‘guitar record’ The Cure’s third album is driven, if very slowly, by Gallup’s economic but noteworthy bass work.

As a whole things don’t really go above a coma-pace apart from on the chugging excellence of ‘Primary’ and the spiteful frenzy of ‘Doubt’. However if this was a stylistic choice or more to do with the amount of coke these young men were consuming is up to the listener to decide.

Pornography (1982)

“Your name like ice / Into my heart…”

The end of the road. The final part in a dark trilogy the drove the band to a legendary breaking point. By consuming heaps of drugs, pushing away all his friends and with thoughts permanently focused on death and the pointlessness of it all, Smith and the gang ended up producing an album that makes any of Joy Division’s output sound like a lullaby…and it is first rate!

Often-named Darkest Album Ever Made it is admittedly a tough listen, but it’s an incredibly cathartic experience for those who persist, not to mention one of the bands finest moments. Eight tracks of pure acid soaked despair, rage and insanity honestly captured for the ages. As true a ‘goth’ record you’ll likely to find (ever or in their back catalogue) ‘Pornography’ sees Tolhurt’s drums reached new tribal simplicity while Smith’s pained vocals mix with guitar work that jumps between chiming arpeggios and nightmarish wails.

Touring behind it the band quickly disintegrated under the emotional toll, fist fights, verbal abuse and bizarre concerts where they switched instruments spelling the end of The Cure as it was. With lyrical content covering embryos, blind men and slaughtered pigs its fair to say you won’t be playing this at your next dinner party.

The Top (1984)

“I keep her dark thoughts deep inside/ As black as stone / And mad as birds…”

With the band’s future looking very unlikely indeed, manager Chris Parry dared the exhausted frontman to write a pop number if he really didn’t care what happened to The Cure. Returning from a month detox Smith deliberately made the antithesis of what people would expect from the lords of shadow and produced ‘’Let’s Go To Bed’, ‘The Walk’ and ‘The Lovecats’ in quick succession. Turned out he was a bit of a pop genius.

Come 1983/4, and with a firm Cure line up still missing, the then 24 year old Smith busied his days recording guitar for Siouxsie & The Banshee’s ‘Hyaena’ album before heading to another studio to drink magic mushroom tea and record ‘The Top’ essentially solo. Afterward he’d finally head to Camden to drop acid with Banshee founding member Steve Severin and watch B-Movies, sleep and repeat.

The result of such a lifestyle was an eastern flavoured and predictably very unusual set of songs. Some of the psychedelic fury of ‘Pornography’ remains but now with a childlike charm becoming apparent, especially on sole single ‘The Caterpillar’ and the Spanish themed ‘Birdmad Girl’. Saxophone, panpipes and violin added new textures to Smith’s demented world while his new pop chops were seen on the bouncy groove of ‘Dressing Up’ amongst others.

Despite some glimmers of sunlight a sense of loss and madness still prevails, especially on the titular final number with the lost cult star howling “Please come back… all of you.” Time to get the band back together, properly.

The Head On The Door (1985)

“Pleasure fills up my dreams / And I love it…”

After a good old spell of drug induced chronic blood poisoning/mental breakdown it was time for The Cure Phase II (and MK V’ish if you bothered counting members). Written in an incredible burst of creativity from Smith, ‘The Head On The Door’ perfectly melded The Cure’s new pop sensibilities with its raw emotional core and introspection. With things patched up with Gallup, and Tolhurst now on keyboard duties, Smith expanded the fold by adding drummer extraordinaire Boris Williams and original on/off again guitarist Porl Thompson to create the groups most musically accomplished incarnation yet.

From the opening burst of ‘Inbetween Days’ it’s clear that the listener is encountering a new beast, an exuberant, re-charged monster and with some heady tricks up its sleeve. Smith’s fascination with Eastern instrumentation continues on the dreamy ‘Kyoto Song’ while ‘Six Different Ways’ jaunty piano and high-pitched vocals saw him embody the loveable, backcombed man-child image that had begun to fill many an outsider’s bedroom wall. ‘Push’s blistering dual guitar work has the group attempt (and succeed) in pulling off a stadium worthy rocker while ‘Close To Me’s unusual breath filled production creates one of the more crazed alternative-hits of the 80s.

A resounding success filled in equal part with, experimentation, catchy hooks and a little dash on joyous mania.

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)

“Daylight licked me into shape / I must have been asleep for days…”

With their last album pushing The Cure to new heights and audiences the quintet retired to France to produce its follow up, happily losing themselves in a wine fueled haze before emerging with 74mins of sun-kissed gold. ‘Kiss Me…’ could be best described as bi-polar odyssey, an album dealing with the dizzying highs of love and the frenzied lows of lust, jealously and hate.

The way the Hendrix-indebted doom of opener ‘The Kiss’ jumps to the sweet and gentle following ‘Catch’ could simply be one biggest tonal shifts ever found on tape. Elsewhere we have the infectious funk of ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ and ‘Hot Hot Hot!!!’ sitting next to the Euro-tinged melancholy of ‘How Beautiful You Are’ and the stomping guitar led ‘All I Want’ – It’s all rather topsy turvy.

Still, on a whole the light beats the dark and the band’s seventh album still stands as their happiest, in no part thanks to the blissful perfection of ‘Just Like Heaven’ and the sickly sweet ‘Perfect Girl’. Grand, mad and in awe of the beauty of it all.

Disintegration (1989)

“The strangest twist upon you lips / And we shall be together…”

With the pressures of fame building and the big THREE-O looming Smith soon re-entered a depression, isolating himself from the group as he worked on this, their opus. Akin to being gently smothered by a pillow of tear inducing introspection, ‘Disintegration’ stands as a gorgeously textured record and the best example of what The Cure evolved to be. From the spine-tingling opening chords of ‘Plainsong’ to the gentle fade of ‘Untitled’, the twelve tracks beautifully compliment one another creating a stronger whole.

Despite this foggy thread holding the album together one quick look and you’ll still see all the Smith staples present. Exotic promise is seen on the spider filled ‘Lullaby’, groove led rock is represented by ‘Fascination Street’ while ‘Lovesong’ (a wedding gift to his childhood sweetheart) manages to be both great pop and emotionally disarming due to its lyrical simplicity. Plainly put ‘Disintegration’ is an absolute behemoth of feeling. Dramatic? Sure. But when was love and life not? May our emotions forever be sound tracked by a pale man wielding a six-string bass in a sea of dry ice.

Wish (1992)

“And the hands on my shoulders don’t have names / And they won’t go away…”

Many fans argue to this day if this is truly the last ‘great’ Cure record or if indeed its predecessor marked a high water point there was no point matching. Facts are ‘Wish’ stands as the group’s commercial peak as well as a damn fine album filled with many a live favourite. Not sure to either match the intensity of their darker periods or go full on dreamy bastards mode, the bands ninth release ended up becoming something in between.

‘Friday I’m In Love’ and ‘High’ stand as the most straight forward single fodder the band’s ever released, while the bookending duo of ‘Open’ and ‘End’ are near seven minute rants against fame and its trappings. With keyboardist Roger O’Donnel no longer in the frame, replaced by one time roadie Perry Bamonte on third guitar and keys, the ‘Wish’ session birthed the most frenetic and forceful elements of The Cure.

Especially noteworthy is the mixture of Thompson’s crazed wah washed axe work and William’s powerhouse drumming on ‘Cut’ and ‘Wendy Time’, proving that this wasn’t just a band for the wall flowers.

Wild Mood Swings (1996)

“Wake up feeling green / Sick as a dog and six times as mean…”

An apt title for the group’s most unfocused and often unloved record. With even the trippy ‘The Top’ having the fact it was a continuously batshit going for it, The Cure’s tenth album tries to tackle Mariachi, Swing, alt-rock and acoustic misery all while often treading old ground. ‘Club America’ is (thankfully) one of the few truly bad songs Smith has penned while the manic pop of ‘Return’ of ‘Round, Round, Round’ feel a little like numbers that weren’t quite good enough for ‘Wish’.

Still, ‘Wild Mood Swings’ is far from a bad record; opener ‘Want’ still sees them passionately raging against the dying light, ‘Gone!’ and ‘The 13th!’ may be love/hate affairs but still shows a band happy to experiment and play with conventions. Single ‘Mint Car’ is a classic post ‘Kiss Me…’ Cure pop number while the combo of ‘Treasure’ and ‘Bare’ are fine tearjerkers if oddly placed. The real tragedy is how the B-sides from this period stand as some of The Cure’s finest, if used this could have been a mature, string-led beauty.

Bloodflowers (2000)

“We always have to go / I realise…”

With their star starting to wane on home shores, and nearly twenty-five years in the biz under their belts, the group greeted the 21st century with what was supposed to be their swansong. Sold as the completion of a trilogy (completed by ‘Disintegration’ and ‘Pornography’) ‘Bloodflowers’ would have made a splendid and fitting finale. Rich on melody, tone and filled with a tangible sense of nostalgia, the nine tracks presented are almost a perfect example of ‘The Cure ‘sound’ for any outsider.

The iconic Fender VI baritone licks weave between washes of synth and confident bass work as Smith looks back at forty years of dreams and hopes. The one small fault to the album is due to its all prevailing mood the whole package doesn’t really own a clear standout track, and no commercial singles were released. It’s a small gripe however, and if anything the ethereal and haunting stage it creates makes the perfect way to watch the cult icons drift away into happy memory.

The Cure (2004)

“Tell me it’s the same world / whirling through the same space…”

Can you kill what is already dead? Can the children of the night live without a leader? Who’s hair will now fill stadiums? Perhaps with these questions in mind nu-metal wunder producer Rick Robinson managed to tempt Smith from a short-lived / not really retirement. Allowing someone to take the sonic reins for the first time since their debut, Robinson to his credit made the band sound more urgent and fiery than they had in a decade.

Hands down their most ‘in your face’ release and oft lacking in some of the sweet subtleties that had become their trade, the album more importantly got the public and critics truly interested again. ‘The End of the World’ and ‘alt.end’ made for fine and contemporary indie fair while ‘Going Nowhere’ gave something for the fans of old to hold to their breast.

There’s a lack of some real knockout numbers, but instead you’re given a fine example of the band’s live potency and passion. In their absence many a new outfit had paid tribute to the icons and now they’d returned to reap the rewards.

4:13 Dream (2008)

“We’re on the edge of a beautiful thing she said/ Come on lets stay here for a while…”

Comfortably back in the saddle, and with guitarist Porl Thompson returning for a new four man configuration, the band set about writing a new double album. That never appeared. Between delays, record label issues and Smith deciding he needed to re-do some words, it was decided to split the release in two – a dark and light side representing The Cure’s dual nature. Eight years later we’re still waiting for the dark release ‘4:13 Scream’ (*always give Cure fans their dusky deserts first).

Still ‘4:13 ‘Dream’ sees some of the more loveable groove back on the bonkers ‘Freakshow’ and swaggering ‘The Real Snow White’. Opener ‘Underneath The Stars’ is one of the most emotive and outstanding songs the band has released while some fresh sounding ground is still tread on ‘It’s Over’. As with ‘Wild Mood Swings’ there are some bizarre choices on what made the B-Sides and what ended up on the final product, and the whole thing is badly damaged by some awful over compression on the mix. Coming from the band that released ‘Disintegration’ this is a crime.

With an album worth of material recorded, whispers of a new release in the air, and currently performing some of the best received gigs of their career, it’s safe to say these beautiful oddities will be around a little longer…

© Clash Magazine & Sam Walker-Smart

How To Sound Like The Cure on Guitar

When it comes to pedals — and chorus and delay in particular — few players have had as lasting an influence as Robert Smith of The Cure. Bands like Dinosaur Jr and the Smashing Pumpkins have recorded loving covers of Cure songs, and the cavalcade of recently released boutique chorus and modulation pedals testify to Smith’s lasting impact as a guitar tone architect. In this edition of Potent Pairings, we’re taking a look at some classic Cure guitar tones and how to use every day pedals to achieve them.

Performed by Chris Kareska

Potent Pairings: The Guitar Work of The Cure’s Robert Smith

Robert Smith may be the most underrated rock guitarist of all time. While he was never one to shred with the same flash as some of his ’80s contemporaries, his influence over droves of players and sub-genres should earn him a more revered spot in the guitar gods pantheon.

The Cure still fill stadiums with a surprisingly diverse community of adoring fans. Bands like Dinosaur Jr and the Smashing Pumpkins have recorded loving covers of Cure songs. If the recent cavalcade of boutique chorus and modulation pedals is any indication, Smith’s influence as a tonal architect is alive and well.

So why is the ink devoted to his guitar craft comparatively limited?

For one, Smith’s status as a pop culture emblem of angst might distract audiences from his underlying musical achievements. For the general population, Robert Smith’s hair and makeup choices are a more relevant touchpoint than his guitar tone.

Perhaps The Cure’s renown as a poppy synth band gets in the way of guitar worship. It’s understandable considering that many of their biggest hits are flush with cascades of Roland and other string synths.

Distractions aside, Smith remains a guitar player and effect explorer first. It may just be that his affinity for the textural over the technical in his work is the real root of his underappreciation. While certainly a capable player, his innovation and influence has less to do with the notes he plays and more to do with how they sound.

bass-vi_x5d0oe

Look at how popular shoegaze and its unyielding pedal worship has been over the past decade within indie rock circles. My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy might be the sonic manifestos of the genre, but The Cure were swimming in similar waters with 1982’s Pornography.

Even before that, Smith played a Jazzmaster modded with a pickup from a cheap department store guitar to record the group’s debut studio album, Three Imaginary Boys in 1979, and could be seen with a Fender Bass VI a couple years later. He was playing offsets with endless chorus and delay decades before this aesthetic was normalized by the skinny-jeaned denizens of your local DIY venue.

That album and the ones that followed – Seventeen Seconds in 1980 and Faith in 1981 – were angular post-punk outcrys stocked with sneer and counterbalanced with undeniable hooks and grooves. Starting with Pornography in particular, you can hear an increased textural exploration and tonal interplay. Listen to the instrumental sections of “The Hanging Garden.” The layered, shifting guitar lines take the various effects of the day and forge a cohesive, iconic gothic orchestration.

Later albums proved more diverse, with radio-friendly hits like “In Between Days” and “Close to Me” on 1985’s The Head in the Door and “Just Like Heaven” on Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me in 1987. While these hits and other genre exercises of this era were departures from the dirges and youthful anger of earlier efforts, they reflect a constant quest for new sounds, textures, and instrumental approaches to serve the song.

ultracure_lset5p

With Disintegration in 1989, everything came together, which is a tad ironic given the album’s title. The pop hook sensibilities, the gothic alienation, the deep, enveloping layers of sound all coalesced into a work that South Park fans will remember Kyle calling “the best album ever.”

Cure releases since have all offered something worthwhile. They’ve toured consistently despite membership changes, most notably the addition of studio guitar ace Reeves Gabrels in 2012 (along with his slick signature Reverend solid body).

Smith for his part has played a number of guitars throughout his career, including a range of Fender offsets, various map-shaped Nationals, and a Gretsch Country Gentleman. In recent years, he’s almost exclusively used a set of signature instruments built by Schecter, including the electric UltraCure (in both traditional and Bass IV-esque configurations) and the acoustic RS-1000.

As for effects, Smith primarily uses Boss pedals with the odd EHX or Dunlop option tossed in. Nothing newfangled. If it ain’t broke, don’t cure it.

© Dan Orkin & Reverb