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 Cure, dieci brani (più uno) per prepararsi al ritorno in Italia

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I The Cure stanno per tornare in Italia per quattro concerti (Bologna, doppia data a Milano e Roma) e come sempre il loro passaggio scuote gli animi più inquieti. Per prepararmi al meglio al ritorno di Robert Smith e soci ho pensato di passare un weekend a ripercorrere l’intera discografia. Per due giorni ne sono stato totalmente risucchiato, rendendomi conto di quanto sia maledettamente impegnativo passare in rassegna tutte le loro fasi. Sono passato dal sentirmi annegare in una pozza di sangue nero a sentirmi innamorato pure del mio cuscino. Mi sono frammentato e ricomposto così tante volte da aver perso la cognizione del tempo, ma alla fine sono riuscito ad estrapolare una mia personale top 10 (+ bonus track).

Boys Don’t Cry

Il pezzo più celebre del disco d’esordio dei The Cure in realtà ha visto la luce solo nella ristampa per il mercato americano. Il titolo del disco viene addirittura cambiato e il brano in questione, oltre a diventarne quello di maggior successo, ne è anche la title-track: “Three Imaginary Boys” approda negli States proprio con il titolo “Boys Don’t Cry”. Il pezzo è irresistibilmente romantico, con un testo dalla sincerità commovente. Se confrontato con il resto del lotto, o con il materiale che va a comporre la successiva trilogia discografica, è un’anomalia. Uno dei brani più ballabili mai scritti dalla band inglese, un’efficace vena punk lontana dai claustrofobici pattern sui quali è stata costruita la carriera di questa pietra miliare.

A Forest

Tratto dal secondo amatissimo album in studio – “Seventeen Seconds” – “A Forest” più che un brano è una definizione. Nei suoi quasi sei minuti di durata racchiude allo stesso tempo l’incipit e la perfetta summa di quello che è stato il lavoro dei Cure nell’ambito dark-pop. Pop perché si tratta di un brano semplice, dai suoni tanto puliti da essere in grado di edificare nella testa di qualunque tipo di ascoltatore. Eppure dannatamente selettivo perché intriso di oscurità e disperazione, come solo un granitico manifesto dark potrebbe essere. Il basso di Simon Gallup (qui impegnato anche con le tastiere) è uno dei più seminali degli anni Ottanta e accompagna la voce e la chitarra di Robert Smith attraverso una foresta avvolta dalla nebbia. Una nebbia che sembra infittirsi nota dopo nota.

The Drowning Man

Tra tutti i brani contenuti in “Faith”, forse il disco più decadente della discografia dei The Cure, “The Drowning Man” è quello più funzionale. Mentre la ritmica iniziale sembra invitare innocentemente, l’incedere dei riverberi trascina l’ascoltatore in una spirale di angoscia. In qualche modo è come se i The Cure fossero riusciti ad inserire nella traccia una forza centrifuga in grado di farci girare senza sosta, senza permetterci di uscirne. Così come per la foresta di “Seventeen Seconds”, anche in questo caso la metafora scelta è talmente vicina alla reale percezione da sfiorare il miracolo. Impossibile non sentirsi come un uomo sul punto di affogare, in un totale annichilimento dei sensi.

The Hanging Garden

“Pornography” è il terzo capitolo di una trilogia che arriva a definire i The Cure – soprattutto per chi ancora oggi si rifiuta di accettare la fine del loro periodo dark – e l’intero decennio Eighties. Ma è anche il lavoro che quasi uccide la formazione britannica, spingendo il suo principale autore verso una voragine di depressione e portandolo ad una rottura apparentemente irreparabile con Simon Gallup. “The Hanging Garden” si colloca all’interno di questo distruttivo lavoro come uno sfogo ossessivo-compulsivo, il momento più allucinato dell’album, nonché il più ispirato.

In Between Days

Dopo la virata di “The Top”, disco che sancisce la fine del buio e l’arrivo inaspettato di luce e colori, Robert Smith lotta contro la sua grave dipendenza dalle droghe ed esce da uno strano periodo di transizione in cui lavora praticamente come un artista solista, per entrare in uno dei periodi più prolifici per i The Cure. Torna Gallup, la band è di nuovo una band e viene pubblicato “The Head On The Door”, disco che rappresenta magnificamente l’inaspettata rinascita e contiene alcuni tra i pezzi più belli e radiofonici del repertorio. Ne è un esempio “In Between Days”, brano catalizzatore di tutti gli spunti positivi nati dalla risalita dall’oblio.

Push

Con “Push” i Cure dimostrano di non essere più solo una band adatta a determinati profili e non lo fanno ricorrendo solo al pop o a dinamiche più solari e positive. Si lanciano anche nel rock, quello di respiro ampio, quello epico che affascina. Ma non si tratta di un’incursione, è più una convergenza. Perché di fatto, pur avendo sempre sguazzato nella new wave e nel post-punk, hanno sempre sfiorato il rock, per lo più quello gothic, dando l’idea di poterlo afferrare in qualunque momento. L’arena-rock di “Push” in tal senso è come un sasso che precipita su uno specchio d’acqua, la fonte da cui si propagano le onde concentriche che arrivano a toccare tutti i dischi pubblicati dal 1979 al 2008.

Just Like Heaven

Dopo aver capito cosa avrebbe potuto renderli ancora più imponenti e totalmente consapevoli del loro potenziale rock, i Cure pubblicano “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me”, un lavoro catchy che pur lasciando intravedere un ritorno alle tinte dark, punta tutto su una grande produzione e su alcuni brani dal tiro invidiabile. Gli stadi sono pieni, le apparizioni televisive non si contano neanche più e a trainare il successo del disco c’è il loro singolo definitivo, ovvero quello che non sfigura in una compilation di evergreen del rock ma che mette a proprio agio qualunque ascoltatore occasionale: “Just Like Heaven”.

Pictures Of You

“Disintegration” (1989) è l’album più eclettico dei The Cure. Ogni pezzo potrebbe reggere il confronto con intere discografie. I singoli sono perle e quelli che non sono singoli sono comunque così belli che dovrebbero essere title-track di dischi a se stanti, con abbastanza spazio per poter espandere gli innumerevoli spunti. Eppure tutti insieme compongono un organico perfetto, maestoso, l’unico in grado di far vivere anacronisticamente i Cure della darkwave, con tutte le loro angosce, senza perdere il focus su un sound moderno, maturo e altamente vendibile. Tra i singoli si erge “Pictures Of You”, un pezzo in cui l’ossessione è descritta e presentata come qualcosa di dolce. Un colpo da maestro.

Fascination Street

Tra tutte le piccole opere d’arte contenute in “Disintegration”, ce n’è una che sembra vivere di vita propria. Come accade per quasi tutto il platter, le tastiere vogliono essere protagoniste, qui fautrici di una melodia ipnotica, ma il basso di Gallup si insinua tra i tessuti e crea scompiglio. La voce di Robert Smith è più comunicativa che mai e racconta una storia proibita, nell’episodio più seduttivo della sua carriera. Uno degli esempi più chiarificatori di cosa voglia dire indossare una maschera di trucco per non mostrarsi indifesi agli occhi del mondo, e allo stesso tempo rendere quella maschera un’icona universale.

A Letter To Elise

Alle persone piace da morire poter dire “ah, quello è l’ultimo vero album che hanno fatto” parlando di una band che hanno amato. Ai fan dei Cure, il più delle volte, piace identificare quell’album con “Wish”, del 1992. Oltre all’inflazionata hit “Friday I’m Love” (geniale nel suo diventare attuale una volta a settimana), il fiore all’occhiello di questo colpo di coda di una carriera clamorosa è “A Letter To Elise”. Il testo è uno spietato trattato sull’amore, una missiva in grado di frantumare qualunque cuore.

BONUS TRACK: Burn

Poche band nella storia hanno incarnato il concetto di “cult” come i The Cure. E cosa accade quando un gruppo cult scrive un brano per la colonna sonora di un film cult, tratto da un fumetto cult? Lo si scopre ascoltando la colonna sonora de Il Corvo. “Burn” è il brano che Robert Smith ha composto per l’indimenticabile film diretto da Alex Proyas, e tratto dall’omonimo fumetto di James O’Barr. Eric Draven, il personaggio interpretato da Brandon Lee, è una delle icone più potenti della cultura dark e nessuno meglio dei Cure avrebbe potuto musicarne le gesta. “Burn” non solo è uno dei pezzi più belli accreditati alla band britannica, è anche la punta di diamante di una delle migliori colonne sonore del cinema anni Novanta.

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

„Disintegration“: Düsteres Meisterwerk von The Cure

Der wabernde Keyboardsound erinnert zwar entfernt an den orchestralen Bombast von Vangelis („Chariots of Fire“), aber dann schält sich in „Plainsong“ vehement und unaufhörlich die Melancholie heraus.

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Von Heroik keine Spur, hier wird gelitten: Dunkel, windig und kalt ist die Welt in dem Song „Plainsong“, mit dem das Cure-Album „Disintegration“ (1989), das gerade als 3 CD Set neu aufgelegt wurde, beginnt.

Ein unaufhörlich sich träge dahinwälzender Mahlstrom der Melancholie, der Cures achtes Studioalbum zu einem düsteren Meisterwerk der Schwermut macht. Robert Smith, der zur damaligen Zeit eine schwer depressive und durch Drogen entfremdete Phase durchmachte, hat dem Album seinen dunklen Stempel aufgedrückt.

Diese schwermütige Grundstimmung traf, allen Befürchtungen der Plattenfirma zum Trotz, ganz offenbar den Nerv der Zeit. Über 3 Millionen Mal verkaufte sich „Disintegration“ und mit „Lullaby“, „Fascination Street“, „Lovesong“ und „Pictures of You“ sprangen zudem vier poppigere Hitsingles heraus, die leichter zugänglich waren in diesem Meer der Tristesse.

Bei der Deluxe-Ausgabe von „Disintegration“ dürfte neben dem remasterten Original und dem Live-Album „Entreat Plus“ vor allem die CD mit Raritäten (1988-1989) für Cure-Fans von Interesse sein, die hier eine geballte Ladung Songs in ihrer Instrumentalversion finden – alles zusammengestellt und überwacht von Robert Smith.

Beinahe hätte „Disintegration“ tatsächlich ein Instrumental-Album werden können, wenn Robert Smith nicht seine Texte gerettet hätte, die bei einem Feuer in seinem Zimmer beinahe verbrannt wären. Mit nassen Handtüchern um Kopf und Schultern stürzte er sich unter Todesgefahr in den brennenden und verrauchten Raum. Danach war er ziemlich krank, seine düsteren Texte aber voller Hoffnungslosigkeit und Verzweiflung waren sicher.

The Glove Will Tear Us Apart

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Steve Sutherland witnesses the birth of The Glove, further adventures of the Banshee mafia starring STEVE SEVERIN and ROBERT SMITH.

The comely young wife with her hands in the sink smiles as her husband strolls into the kitchen of her Los Angeles dream home.  Just back from the office and starving for his dinner, he skirts the table and folds his arms around her ample waist, twisting her into an affectionate embrace.

She tilts her head back to receive his kiss, and suddenly tufts of her hair drift gently to the tiles.  As he recoils in horror a carving knife arcs up out of the suds and strikes and strikes and strikes again….

This, or thereabouts anyway (it’s a long time since I’ve seen it) is a scene from ‘Blue Sunshine’, a superbly B-movie that did the rounds to little acclaim towards the end of the disillusioned seventies.  Taking it’s name from a reputedly super-potent strain of LSD, it’s plot was lip-smackingly simple: anybody who was unfortunate to have sampled a certain contaminated batch of the said hallucinogenic would, without warning, go bald ten years to the day that they dropped their dammed trip an then turn into a homicidal maniac.  The revenge on or of the love generation?

Some people out there would do well to start checking their diaries smartish.

‘Blue Sunshine’ is also the name of The Glove’s first and only album.  This is no coincidence.  After all, The Glove – that’s Robert Smith, Steve Severin and Zoo-dancer-turned-singer Jeanette – took their name from the Blue Meanies’ giant fist-cum-executioner in ‘Yellow Submarine’.  The same glove, you’ll remember that turned back into LOVE when the power of music overcame bad with good.

There’s either message or madness in these mindgames.

Of course, both the Banshees and The Cure have always mucked about with the romantic notion of love, happiest with a relationship to dissect or an emotion to torture into screaming confessions of guilt; so it should come as no surprise that when Smith and Severin’s plan for a single called ‘Punish Me With Kisses’ expanded into a feverishly claustrophobic album project love should end up on the rack.

It does come as something of a shock however when Smith sits crossed-legged on the floor of Severin’s flat and says “It’s quite a happy album really.  It’s good that it’s gonna be a summer release.”

My mind swiftly retracts in panic… the nightmare in a nursery of ‘Mr. Alphabet’…the brooding cacophony of ‘Orgy’… the séance tension of ‘A Blues In Drag’?  And then I catch a hint of a smile.

I should have known, once a Banshee always a…

“We haven’t got together to do this because there’s anything trapping us within the music that we already do”. Severin insists in a whisper, “it’s not as if we’re trying to escape from a constriction that’s going on in either the Banshees or The Cure because I know that I’m quite free to do whatever I like within the Banshees and always have.

“The main reason the whole thing started in the first place was because when I listened to The Cure, I could understand why Robert was putting a certain thing in a certain place and that’s probably why we get on; the sense of dynamics and melody was fairly similar to what I was doing within the Banshees.  Like, some of the melodies he was writing for The Cure, I could see myself writing, so it was really obvious in the end that we would do something together.

“The main thing now though is it’s a completely different situation, a completely different way of working…”

Smith agrees:  “I thought it was a real attack on the senses when we were doing it.  We were virtually coming out of the studio at six in the morning, coming back here and watching all these really mental films and then going to sleep and having really demented dreams and then, as soon as we woke up at four in the afternoon, we’d go virtually straight back into the studio, so, it was a bit like a mental assault course towards the end.

“I found, when we were writing the words, that we were picking up on things we’d experienced within the time of doing the album.  Usually I write about things that happened months ago, so it was really strange working like that, I mean’ God, we must have watched about 600 videos at the time!  There’d be all these after-mages of the film we’d just watched cropping up in the songs from time to time.

“It wasn’t deliberate, it just happened that way but, after a while, they were chosen, I think almost as influences. I mean, when we were waking up, in the half hour or so that we were just like in a coma, I’d put on a film or a piece of music that was completely different to what we’d been doing the night before so that it would influence the day.  I mean, as we’d set ourselves the task of writing two songs a day, it was the only way we could refresh ourselves…. otherwise the whole thing would have snowballed.

“There was a strange sort of humour involved all the time we were making it.  It was never like we were really making a record, it was always just going into the studio and doing something we wanted to do and then, later, we had to sit down and mix it and make sense out of it.  Up until that point there were just all these little snippets.”

“We just kept going at it,” Severin confirms.  “We had to make it sound complete.  At the beginning it was just like a dozen, 15 songs completely different from each other.”
“Songs?” laughs Smith, “It sounded like 15 different groups!  It sounded like a K-Tel compilation album.  The other thing that influenced it, talking about snippets, was the amount of junk we were reading, the amount we spent on idiot magazines and stuff like that!  We were making big murals of these cuttings and pictures and stuff, big Day-Glo posters.”

And the films?

“Oh, ‘The Brood’, ‘Evil Dead’, ‘Helicopter Spies’, ‘Inferno’…I fell asleep in that and missed the end, didn’t I?  I was really annoyed… I dunno, what else?… some divine stuff… ‘Yellow Submarine’…”

Ah, but what purpose these days to such perversions of love?  can they act as anything beyond kitsch, choreographed titillation?

The love-peace vision of the Sixties has long been reduced by retrospect to a fashionable quirk and ridiculed for its naivety.  Where we should probably feel ashamed that the youth revolution couldn’t do anything concrete with the inroads it made into personal liberation (except allow the trappings to be merchandised by peripheral entrepreneurs) we tend to dismiss the whole ethos as stoned-out lunacy and look to cut-throat private enterprise as a means of personal, rather than global, salvation.  So much for Sergeant Pepper and Blue Sunshine.

And even the promise of promiscuity and dark-fantasies fulfilled – inherent in Severin’s chosen pseudonym and Smith’s psychotic imagery – are a confusion, and unwitting compromise, a wry comment on society’s accepted double standards.

There are some who will see The Glove as little more than a sensational rape story in a smutty Fleet Street paper; they will miss the fact that Smith and Severin have, crucially unburdened themselves of all hypocritical pretence at moral judgement.  This is unfortunate

The Glove are actually honest in their irresponsibility.  They decline to opine on their subjects/victims and thus, as with The Cure, Banshees and Creatures, function among the few still bold enough to provoke a reaction through brandishing artistic license.

The Glove know love is synonymous with love in the Eighties, that songs about so-called seedier sides of love are as prolific and clichéd as trad Moon-in-Juners.  But they also know that if sex doesn’t shock anymore, if sexual perversion as been neutered as artistic fuel by over-familiarity, and if any attitude towards sex, no matter how extreme, can barely raise blood pressures, then refusing to have an attitude is the only course open that, at once, shocks and comments.

On the surface ‘Blue Sunshine’ sounds like thrills for thrills’ sake, a journey into the tunnel of love that took a wrong turn into the house of horrors.  But underneath, there beats a subliminal pulse, a desperate motive, and a frantic desire to test out ways of working within the confines of pop with contributing to its malaise.

Severin and Smith want to join in the game, but play by their own secret rules.  They want to do something with their fame.  Where others make commercial success the be-all-and-end-all of their existence, the Banshees contingent was to use it as a weapon.  Hence the splintering of the group into offshoots.  Experiments with the attraction of repulsion.

“It’s basically an album and that’s where it’s gonna stop,” says Severin of The Glove.  “But then, that’s what The Creatures is, just an album.  We haven’t got the time to promote ourselves the same way The Creatures did because they’ve been waiting for us to finish all this so we can go in and work on a new Banshees album although the more time The Creatures are seen to be around, the more people think ‘What’s happened with the Banshees, have the split up?’ and all that kind of nonsense.  So, we’re just gonna do the minimal amount so people know it’s out and then just concentrate on other things.”

“To me it seems perfectly natural to be involved in so many different areas,” says Smith, “But it still seems odd to other people.  Funny that…”

Severin agrees:  “Surely the only way you keep going is by still being relevant, I mean, something has always happened in between Banshee albums to make the next one interesting for people to listen to.  They expect to hear something different because a certain event has happened.

“I’m sure we’d be more popular if we churned out the same thing all the time simply because that’s what other people do – just do something to death and then go to America and crack it because they’re five years behind… all that kind of nonsense.  I mean, when John and Kenny left the Banshees in 79, I think there’s actually a quote where I said groups were finished and we weren’t gonna be a group anymore.  Well we are because we feel the Banshees, as an idea are still perfectly valid.  It probably gets more valid as it goes along but there’s no reason why that idea can’t spread to any kind of limits.

“I mean, there’s three completely different phases to the Banshees; the first two albums where we were really a solid group, where everybody had their say and it was like a real iron fist.  Then there was ‘Kaleidoscope’, which isn’t too dissimilar from what we’ve just done, the way me and Sioux dictated everything that was going and slowly it all came together though we still didn’t have much of an idea except for the Banshees past to work on.  And then we got back into another group, although we tried to keep the elements we’d learned from being a duo.

“When it got to the stage where it was looking as though everybody – including the people in the group – wanted it to be a group per se, that’s when we had to throw it apart again.  ‘Dreamhouse’ came out of that wanting to just like… BANG!”

The trap is, of course, that in ensuring your own working environment remains vibrant, it doesn’t necessarily follow that what you produce will be valid to anybody else.  Just because Robert Smith plays a lot more keyboards than guitar on The Glove album doesn’t necessarily mean the album’s any good.  Severin is acutely aware of the problem.

“The idea that The Glove could get away with anything vanished very quickly because it became a real responsibility to get it to sound not indulgent.  I think what I wanted was for it to have more of a specific personality than, say, the Banshees or The Cure.  I mean, the Banshees have a set, almost concrete image that, no matter what we do, we’re kind of stuck with on a very superficial daily paper ‘ice-queen and doom and gloom’ level.

“I think we’ve nearly got to an idea of what me and Robert are like as people, our relationship.  It goes back to what Sioux and Budgie said about The Creatures, about how, when you’ve got four people and an original idea, it’s almost inevitable that the idea is gonna get altered, not necessarily distilled, but definitely altered by presenting it to a bunch of people who have very strong ideas about what they want to play.  So…. things like ‘Blues In Drag’ is the kind of thing I’m most pleased about because, if the Banshees had approached that from the beginning, it wouldn’t have ended up like that.

“I just wanted to do something a bit… softer, a bit more… introverted, probably.  That’s what I wanted to achieve: the kind of things that are exclusive to our friendship because it’s completely different to the two groups.  Whether we’ve achieved that I don’t know but, without prompting, everybody I’ve played this to has almost immediately said it sounds really fresh and added to that by saying that everything else that’s coming now is really horrible.

“I just think that, last year, something like ‘Fireworks’ being in the charts was unusual and this year, when a Banshees single gets in the charts it’ll be even more unusual because the climate’s just horrific!”

“Chartwise, so much of it is down to melody,” Smith intrudes, “although… I know that’s hard to believe, looking at the charts at the moment.  All you need is a song that you can sing, a song that you can remember.  You find yourself humming most of The Glove songs but, at the same time, they’re not pop songs.  I like that about it.  It’s the same with the Banshees singles that have got in the charts, they’ve always had melody, but they haven’t had melody like anything else in the charts – they’re rarities.  There’s few people who can still do that… so few in fact, it’s unbelievable.”

The Banshees coterie are more valuable now than ever because, in a musical climate that encourages safety and contrition, being different for being deferent’s sake is one hell of a virtue.  The Banshees/Glove/Creatures’ particular genius is that not only do they advocate constant change but they remain fertile and unbridled rather than cynical or calculated.

“We haven’t a clue what the next Banshees album is gonna be like,” Severin chuckles, “if you stuck The Creatures album and The Glove’s together, I don’t think anybody could know what is coming next from the Banshees.  There’s a certain amount of glee involved in that but it’s not contrived at all.”

“No,” Smith agrees, smiling.  “Just manic.”

© Melody Maker

 

The Cure Returns to Face Its Progeny

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For nearly 30 years, Robert Smith of the British rock band the Cure has been identified with his spidery hairdo, his heavy eyeliner and lipstick, and his yelp. That stifled sob gives Mr. Smith’s lyrics an enviable urgency, whether as a sigh of ecstasy or an anguished lament. Throughout the 80’s the Cure built a cult following with bouncy MTV hits like ”Let’s Go to Bed” and the prom-night smash ”Just Like Heaven” as well as dark albums of goth drone like ”Pornography” and ”Disintegration.”

But despite Mr. Smith’s punchy guitar patterns, pleading melodies and melancholy grandeur, he was considered a dreamy lightweight compared to serious-minded contemporaries like Michael Stipe of R.E.M and Bono of U2. And though Mr. Smith remained a black-clad pied piper of adolescent depressives around the world, no one had him figured as a major rock influence. But now, Mr. Smith’s yelp is everywhere.

Neo-80’s bands like New York’s Interpol and the Rapture (whose Luke Jenner is the most pronounced yelper of the lot) write darkly reflective songs that hark back to the Cure’s early albums, weaving sharp guitar or keyboards over anxious, danceable beats. But the emo-folk singer Conor Oberst, of Bright Eyes, owes a debt as well — his own yelp approximates Mr. Smith’s public displays of heartache. And even bands that don’t yelp at all, from the arty hard-rockers the Deftones to the pop-punkers Blink-182 (who featured Mr. Smith on its last record), credit Mr. Smith for giving them license to express feelings of vulnerability that might be frowned upon in their own genres.

The Cure will releases its impressive, self-titled new album (I Am/Geffen) on Tuesday. The video for the first single, ”The End of the World,” is playing on MTV. And later this summer, the band will headline its own Curiosa tour, with help from its younger progeny the Rapture, Interpol, Cursive, Mogwai and Thursday. The question arises: how did Robert Smith, this sobbing wraith, become the godfather of woe?

In the 80’s, the Cure wooed arty fans who wore a vaguely defined sadness as a badge of significance. While his mopey British rival Morrissey attracted a snide intellectual set with complaints about class and sexual politics in a conservative society, Mr. Smith offered self-pitying lyrics like these from ”Homesick”: ”Oh it was sweet, it was wild, and oh how I trembled stuck in honey/ honey, cling to me so just one more, just one more go inspire in me the desire in me to never go home.” With his yelp lending petulance to the entreaty of ”In Between Days” or futility to the crumpled gratitude of ”Lovesong,” Mr. Smith’s over-the-top-displays of vulnerability turned navel-gazing self-pity into a kind of liberation. And lonely brooders found community within the band’s growing cult. Detractors criticized Mr. Smith’s preoccupation with duplicitous fairies and hanging gardens as absurd, a kind of campy catharsis, but the young fans gladly identified with his ”me’s” and ”you’s.”

This epic self-involvement is something the emo rockers have inherited. In the sense that emo ”privileges private drama,” as Andy Greenwald writes in his recent book, ”Nothing Feels Good,” Mr. Smith is a forefather of the genre. On Web sites where teenage emo fans congregate, like livejournal.com (and the decidedly more goth deadjournal.com), the Cure is often listed in the company of newer bands like Thursday and Bright Eyes.

What these bands share with the Cure is a willingness to make personal weakness central to their aesthetic. But where Mr. Smith cloaks his intimate feelings in romantic symbols like angels and spiders, the others ground theirs in details drawn from their own lives: the circumstances of a friend’s nervous breakdown or a death in a car crash.

Though his music often suggests a constant state of collapse, Mr. Smith, 45, is hardly an emotional wreck. Drugs influenced his darkest 80’s records, but his life is no ”Behind the Music” cautionary tale. He lives in suburban London, has been married for years to his high school sweetheart and takes an active hand in the management of his business affairs.

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Mr. Smith has said that his musical idols are Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie, a pairing that provides a clue to the balance he strikes between sad-clown artifice and authentic catharsis. Where Mr. Bowie has freely moved between personas, Mr. Smith has chosen his own lipsticked character to express that part of himself that is crippled with doubt, wracked by lust, fear and regret.

It’s easy to see how Mr. Smith’s theatricality would be more appealing to today’s young bands than the macho posturing of grunge and rap metal they grew up with. Mr. Smith’s makeup recalls the playful visual experimentation that characterized much of early 80’s pop culture. New bands like the the Faint, Interpol and Hot Hot Heat pick up on Mr. Smith’s more stylized transgressions. They adopt 80’s sounds and, to a lesser extent, looks in a quest for what they imagine was a heyday for artistic expression. For bands that don’t write confessional lyrics, the imitation of Mr. Smith’s yelp can simply be a way to convey urgency, even if its just an urgent need for bodies on the dance floor.

The Cure’s previous album, ”Bloodflowers,” from 2000, was supposed to be the band’s swan song. After its release, Mr. Smith left his longtime label, Fiction/Elektra, and pondered a solo career. It was Ross Robinson, the producer of bands like Limp Bizkit and Slipknot and a Cure fan, who convinced Mr. Smith that he should capitalize on this groundswell of young imitators. Mr. Robinson urged the band to record together live, which Mr. Smith had not done with any of his band’s many lineups since his first album. The approach, while not compromising the sound of the Cure, resulted in stretches that recall the aggression of Mr. Robinson’s harder-edged clients.

”The Cure” begins, though, with ”Lost,” a song the emo crowd would appreciate. Backing himself with spare guitar strumming, Mr. Smith admits, ”I can’t find myself.” The song swirls into a rabbit-hole of doubt. Similarly, the midtempo ”The End of the World” finds Mr. Smith singing, ”I can’t remember how to be all you wanted,” before he crashes into a chorus of ”I couldn’t ever love you more.” The exuberant chords of ”Before Three” contrast with the more doomy, metal-sounding ”Labyrinth,” which makes a horror movie out of aging, lamenting the changing face of a familiar companion: ”It’s not the same you/ It never really is.”

In the album’s final song, ”The Promise,” Mr. Smith yelps recriminations to a loved one long gone, showing goth fans he hasn’t strayed from a preoccupation with death. Of course, what ”The Cure” really demonstrates is death’s opposite. As he releases the new album and takes the stage with young admirers, Mr. Smith has succeeded in making overblown sadness a key to survival.

© Laura Sinagra

Da Camus ai Cure e Visconti, la maledizione de “Lo straniero”

“Il grilletto ha ceduto, ho toccato il ventre liscio dell’impugnatura ed è là, in quel rumore secco e insieme assordante, che tutto è cominciato”
Albert Camus, “Lo straniero”

Albert Camus

L’estate che Albert Camus descrive ne “Lo straniero” è quella calda, soffocante dell’Algeria tra la prima e la seconda guerra mondiale. Una stagione destinata a cambiare per sempre la vita, fino a quel momento ordinaria e quasi banale, dell’impiegato Mersault. Lui, uomo qualunque, talmente anonimo da passare inosservato, che improvvisamente fa qualcosa di orribile: uccide un arabo. Un personaggio tormentato, irrisolto, estraneo al mondo e a se stesso quello di Mersault. Sui motivi del suo folle gesto si sono interrogati in tanti. Generazioni e generazioni di studenti e semplici lettori che hanno amato il romanzo dello scrittore francese pubblicato nel 1942, pietra miliare dell’esistenzialismo. Quel comportamento inspiegabile ha stuzzicato la curiosità anche di un giovane ragazzo inglese, che “Lo straniero” l’aveva incontrato sui banchi di scuola. Al liceo di Crawley, microscopico villaggio tra il Surrey e il Sussex.

Aveva sedici anni Robert Smith quando ha scritto “Killing an Arab”, canzone in cui denunciava l’assurdità della vita quotidiana e la futilità dell’azione di uccidere, immedesimandosi in Mersault. Aveva sedici anni e non credeva certo che, per via di quel pezzo, di quel titolo, di quel testo, si sarebbe messo nei guai. Lui, Lol Tolhurst e Mike Dempsey non erano ancora i The Cure ma solo tre amici che si incontravano di nascosto per far musica dopo le lezioni, sognando di scappare da quell’ambiente così poco stimolante. Tre amici che si esibivano nei pub, suonando “Killing an Arab” senza che di quelle parole controverse si accorgesse nessuno. Ad ascoltarli solo compagni di scuola a cui l’incipit – “Standing on a beach/ With a gun in my hand/ Staring at the sea/ Staring at the sand/ Staring down the barrel/ At the Arab on the ground” ricordava solo noiosi pomeriggi passati in classe. La fama, il successo sembravano un miraggio lontano, vago e indistinto come i contorni delle cose nella calura algerina. Roba che succedeva ad altri, a chi viveva a Londra, non a loro. Ragazzini di provincia naif, ambiziosi e così ingenui da rispondere all’annuncio di una misteriosa etichetta tedesca, la Hansa Records, in cerca di nuovi talenti. Talmente intraprendenti da accettare di firmare un contratto discografico quasi a scatola chiusa. E da proporre “Killing an Arab” come primo singolo. Senza successo perché la Hansa, come ha ricordato un piccato Smith in un’intervista a Sounds nel 1979, “si è rifiutata di pubblicarlo: dicevano che anche se era una buona canzone non potevano farla uscire perché non dovevamo contrariare gli Arabi…”

Era solo il primo dei tanti grattacapi che “Killing” avrebbe procurato alla band. Uscita nel 1978 per la piccola etichetta Small Wonder ha generato subito molto interesse e infinite polemiche. Accuse d’irresponsabilità e razzismo che si sono protratte per anni, sempre categoricamente smentite da un Robert Smith battagliero, che dichiarava tra ironia e amarezza a Adrian Thrills dell’NME: “La canzone è dedicata a tutti gli arabi ricchi che vanno in discoteca al Crawley College a rimorchiare ragazze (…) ma non è veramente razzista (…). Non è un invito a ammazzare gli arabi. È solo capitato che il protagonista del libro avesse ucciso un arabo. Ma avrebbe potuto essere uno scandinavo o un inglese. Il fatto che avesse ucciso un arabo non c’entra niente, sul serio”. Quando “Killing an Arab” è stata ripubblicata dalla Fiction Records nel giugno del 1979 la situazione non era delle migliori, dunque. Tanto che, per chiarire una volta per tutte a cosa Smith si fosse ispirato, l’etichetta distribuiva copie gratuite de “Lo straniero” insieme al disco. In proposito Mike Dempsey, primo bassista della band, intervistato dal magazine francese Best ha commentato: “Il razzismo è troppo pericoloso e ovvio, quindi mettiamo a disposizione il libro correndo il rischio di passare per un gruppo di intellettuali. E non siamo intellettuali. Non apparteniamo a nessuna ondata particolare”. Pensare che era solo l’inizio e non la fine della travagliata vita di quei tre minuti di rabbia metafisica, di quella chitarra “piena di sinistre promesse [che] scivola sinuosa come il figlio di una danzatrice del ventre e di un serpente velenoso”, come l’aveva definita l’NME.

Killing an arab

I problemi, quelli grossi, sarebbero arrivati con il tentativo dei Cure di pubblicare la canzone in America. “Killing an Arab” è sbarcata oltreoceano prima come lato B di “Boys Don’t Cry” nel 1980, passando quasi inosservata. Poi però è stata inclusa nella raccolta di singoli “Staring at the Sea” pubblicata dalla Elektra nel 1986. A ottobre dello stesso anno un dj della WPRB (radio della Princeton University) l’ha introdotta allegramente dicendo: “Ecco una canzone sull’ammazzare gli arabi”. Un commento fuori luogo che ha creato una situazione esplosiva, calda e arroventata almeno quanto quella spiaggia sabbiosa dove Mersault camminava, andando incontro al suo destino. Non era certo questa la pubblicità che i Cure avrebbero voluto e neppure la loro etichetta, presto subissata da telefonate di ascoltatori indignati che accusavano il pezzo di razzismo e ne chiedevano il ritiro. Preoccupata dalle critiche ricevute, per cercare di evitare un danno d’immagine che avrebbe potuto costare milioni di dollari, la Elektra ha cercato disperatamente di fare marcia indietro togliendo il disco dal mercato o la canzone dal disco. Solo che (in base al contratto firmato dai Cure) la label non aveva il potere di fare alcunché senza il consenso della band, consenso che Smith e soci non avevano alcuna intenzione di concedere. Solo a dicembre, dopo mesi di rovente dibattito, è stato raggiunto un accordo: “Killing an Arab” rimaneva dov’era, i Cure potevano suonarla, ma le radio venivano caldamente invitate a non trasmetterla. Inoltre su ogni copia di “Staring at The Sea” doveva essere apposto un adesivo con la scritta: “La canzone ‘Killing an Arab’ non ha alcun contenuto razzista. È un pezzo che condanna l’esistenza di ogni pregiudizio e (…) violenza. I Cure deplorano il suo uso nell’incitare all’odio razziale”. Una vittoria a metà per la band inglese, filosoficamente riassunta dal manager Chris Parry con un ironico: “Se la canzone si fosse chiamata The Stranger non avremmo avuto questi problemi”. Molto meno rassegnato Robert Smith, mai così impegnato a ribadire che “il fatto che fosse stato un arabo ad essere ucciso a me sembrava totalmente irrilevante, come immagino fosse per Albert Camus (…) era solo per motivi di ambientazione, il fatto che fosse un arabo e non qualcun altro”. Il suo giudizio sul compromesso raggiunto grondava amarezza e disillusione: “Siamo stati costretti. C’erano altre soluzioni ma sarebbero state più dolorose per noi. (…) Non mi ha fatto piacere, sul serio, dovermi fare avanti e spiegare (…) non avevamo interesse a continuare a parlarne”.

Povero Robert, pensava che fosse finita sul serio stavolta. Invece la lunga vita di “Killing an Arab” gli avrebbe riservato altre sorprese e non delle più piacevoli. Quasi venti anni dopo, nel 2001, quella canzone sarebbe tornata agli onori della cronaca finendo, suo malgrado, nella lunga lista di brani che le radio statunitensi non potevano trasmettere dopo l’undici settembre. Stavolta però il furbo signor Smith aveva giocato d’anticipo. Riflettendo su quei tre minuti, sulle parole scritte in gioventù che tornavano a tormentarlo, in quel periodo dichiarava pensoso: “Se c’è una cosa che cambierei è il titolo”. Ed è puntualmente ciò che ha fatto, non prima di concedere a “Killing” una lunga, meritata vacanza. Sparita dai concerti, dimenticata, missing per quattro lunghi anni. Fino al 2005, quando è tornata sotto le mentite spoglie di inno pacifista (“Kissing an Arab”). Titolo poi trasformato nell’improbabile ma certamente più cattivo “Killing Another” nel 2009, da uno Smith ben contento di liberarsi finalmente dal legame assassino con quel libro tanto affascinante ma anche così maledetto.

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Un’opera che molti hanno provato a interpretare, a far propria, cadendo spesso preda della sfortuna che sembrava contagiare chiunque si interessasse alla triste sorte di Mersault. Una maledizione di cui è rimasto vittima anche Luchino Visconti, che “Lo straniero” l’ha portato al cinema nel 1967. Un film poco apprezzato, scarsamente amato anche dallo stesso regista, che non sopportava di non aver avuto a riguardo il pieno controllo creativo. Prigioniero di un contratto capestro siglato tra il produttore De Laurentiis e la vedova di Camus, Francine, che pretendeva il rispetto assoluto del testo scritto dal defunto Albert. Poche le libertà che Visconti si è potuto concedere, dovendo scendere a compromessi sia riguardo al cast (avrebbe voluto Alain Delon invece di Marcello Mastroianni) che al modo di narrare il dramma del cittadino modello divenuto killer. Se ne avesse avuto la possibilità infatti, il regista avrebbe preferito un approccio differente, più corale e meno incentrato sulla figura di Mersault. Tanti punti di vista diversi, flashback in stile “Rushomon”, magari anche rileggere la storia alla luce dell’evoluzione democratica dell’Algeria moderna, sottolineando il valore simbolico dell’arabo morto. Invece ha dovuto farsi bastare i dettagli, all’interno di uno schema che prevedeva la più totale fedeltà all’originale. Accontentarsi di quella dissolvenza in nero nel finale, in cui far precipitare il protagonista. Una piccola vendetta in calce a un sogno svanito. Un film amaro, “Lo straniero”, per Visconti. Lo definiva “più che un figlio nato male, un figlio nato con delle limitazioni”. Un figlio che non ha voluto rivedere, prima di morire. Dimenticandolo in un cassetto.

© Valentina Natale

The Cure: Killing An Arab

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Apparently based on Albert’s The Outsider and, if so, quite possibly the straw that broke Camus’ back. Cymbals crash once, twice, three times. A guitar, full of eerie promises, slithering like the sprog of some belly-dancer and a poisonous reptile. Pause. Compact bass guitar motif, descending alone. Then those vocals – taut, terse, tense intonation, very much wired and emotional, the scream that a nervous system might make on the verge of metabolic breakdown. A voice like that feeling you get watching the faces on the workaday tube ride after stepping out at dawn for the third time without sleep. Clipped, concise urgency, occasionally cracking when it arrives at a word or phrase it considers particularly emotive – ain’t nothing but another beach party on an alien sandy shore! Kick off your Scholl sandals and listen. Monotonic chant:

Standing on the beach/With a gun in my hand/Staring at the sea/Staring at the sand/Staring down the barrel at the Arab on the ground/Can see his open mouth/But I hear no sound./I’m alive/I’m dead/I’m the stranger/Killing an Arab.”

And racism has got nothing to do with it.

© Tony Parson

6th february 1979

Killing an arab

The song ”Killing an Arab” is a two-and-a-half-minute version of the central incident from ”L’Etranger,” the Albert Camus novel that became an existentialist tract. The song was written in 1976 by the Cure’s singer, Robert Smith, after he read ”L’Etranger.” The narrator of the novel, Meursault, shoots an Algerian man on a beach for no reason. In the song, Mr. Smith sings, ”You can turn and walk away or I can fire the gun/ Staring at the sky, staring at the sun/ Whichever I choose, it amounts to the same/Absolutely nothing/I’m alive, I’m dead/I’m the stranger/Killing an Arab.”

 

The Cure New Album Finally On Its Way! Frontman Robert Smith Vents Out His Anger On Former Label Company

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While The Cure has yet to reveal the release date, a new album is definitely in the works.

The English rock band who battled a seven-year-long trial with their former label has finally received a favorable settlement.

And what better way to celebrate their success is to finally work on a new album.

But before that, vocalist Robert Smith had to share his strong feelings about what happened between the band and their former label company.

“Honestly? Just pure bloody mindedness,” Smith told NME of their struggle. “I was so f*cking angry that [the label] wouldn’t release a double album that I wouldn’t give them the other songs.”

And while the band is struggling with the trial, they had to lose some of their members, but with new guitarist Reeves Gabrels, who has been with the band since 2012, things got better.

“A lot of stuff happened, unfortunately, with the last line-up of the band,” Smith explained. “People forget sometimes that even when you get older, when you play music with people, there’s a very intense relationship there and when that breaks down then it’s very difficult to just pretend it doesn’t matter.”

“The last line-up, there were a number of reasons why I felt unable to complete what we were doing. It was impossible to just get another line-up and bang out the songs we didn’t release; it would have been wrong.”

Furthermore, The Cure is currently working on a new album which will include songs from their unreleased record.

“There’s new stuff that we’re doing with this line-up and stuff we finished with the old line up,” Smith confirmed.

In a separate interview with Uncut, Smith even made a joke about the title of their new album claiming that it will be called “4:14 Scream,” as a remark to their last album “4:13 Dream.” He even said that while it’s “a dreadful title. Andy who does our covers has done a really great album cover for it, a kind of pastiche of me doing a scream, so maybe we’ll keep it. It’s one of those reverse psychology things, where it’s so bad it’s good.”

And while everything is going well with the band, Smith recalled the band’s experience with their former label and the problems they have to surpass following the unreleased double album.