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, l’incredibile show della vita e della morte

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Il dark e il pop, il nero e tutti i colori, messi in scena dalla band nel tour italiano e interpretati da quella immortale maschera horror e clownesca che porta il nome di Robert Smith

Il nero dei capelli. Il nero della matita intorno agli occhi piena di sbavature. Il nero degli abiti. E poi sempre più dentro, fino al nero che è l’unico colore che si riesce a vedere nei momenti bui.

“See into the dark, just follow your eyes”… Ancora: “The sound is deep, in the dark, I hear her voice”. Parole di A forest, che con quel basso insistente, alla vigilia di Halloween, all’interno del Palalottomatica di Roma, rimbombano. Fin troppo, colpa della pessima acustica del palazzetto.

Ma i Cure vanno avanti, ad immergersi nel buio, a scavarlo per scoprire che dentro ci sono un sacco di persone che vedono nero. “But the fear takes hold, creeping up the stairs in the dark, waiting for the death blow”. E ancora “Under a black flag, a hundred years of blood”. Così canta Robert Smith in One hundred years, brano antimilitarista accompagnato da immagini in bianco e nero (c’è anche Mussolini), uno dei momenti più bui, che apriva quell’occhiata nel terrore che era Pornography, del 1982, composto al culmine della depressione di Smith. All’interno del palazzetto vecchi darkettoni e giovani adepti del culto ascoltano in silenzio.

E invece no. Il concerto non è solo questo. Non è il tour della trilogia dark, non è una black celebration. “Troppo pop”, è il commento di chi sperava in un tuffo in Faith e dintorni. “Pop” è solo uno dei tanti colori che da quel nero man mano emergono. “Pop” alla maniera unica di Robert Smith. Che attacca alle 20:30, inaugurando le 2 ore e 40 minuti di live con Shake dog shake. Un modo tutto suo di dimostrare solidarietà con l’Italia scossa dal terremoto? No, spesso in questo tour partito il 10 maggio da New Orleans iniziano così. E subito dallo scarno palco nero iniziano a colorarsi i laser, le proiezioni, i filmati. Inizia così un viaggio attraverso l’arcobaleno pop e rock di 40 anni di musica vissuta davvero senza compromessi. Che colore era quello delle schitarrate allegre di In between days? E la wave era già new quando nel 1980 pubblicavano Play for today, a suo modo perfetta anche per gli stadi? Il nero diventa fumettistico e si tinge di rosso e ragnatele per Lullaby, che rientra nella categoria “singoli strani” che i Cure hanno sempre tirato fuori anche quando sembrava che il nero fosse l’unico colore possibile. Il post punk era già un ricordo quando con Let’s go to bed (ma al palazzetto si sente malissimo) sembravano i Depeche Mode di Some great reward? Colori, generi ed emozioni sempre diverse. I Cure sono anche quelli funk di Hot hot hot!!! Addirittura quelli cabarettistici di Lovecats. E quelli che a cavallo degli anni Novanta declinarono a modo loro anche le sonorità Madchester: a Roma dopo Never enough arriva anche Wrong number in un arrangiamento che sembrano gli Stone Roses. I Cure – in formazione con Smith e Simon Gallup è tornato anche il tastierista Roger O’Donnell a rimpolpare il sound – sono anche quelli di Lovesong, di cui Adele ha realizzato una cover nel suo album super best seller che ancora rimpingua le casse di Robert Smith.

Troppo pop? Ditelo a quella meraviglia di The edge of the deep green sea, cavalcata monumentale risalente alle seconda, terza vita dei Cure, che nonostante sia interpretata da Smith evitando accuratamente le note più alte (le primavere sono comunque 57 per l’artista) rimane uno splendido racconto breve (prima o poi magari qualcuno azzarderà candidarlo al Nobel). La stessa cosa per ora non si può dire dei due inediti che propongono in tour, il primo materiale inedito in quasi dieci anni: Step into the light e It can never be the same ricalcano i percorsi già ampiamente battuti. Ma c’è Just like heaven. C’è Pictures of you. Anche Friday I’m in love: altro che nero, pochi sono in grado di scrivere canzoni così euforiche.

Il merito è delle canzoni, del nero e del pop, dell’immaginario creato dai Cure. Ma anche e soprattutto di una geniale intuizione narrativa, un po’ cinematografica e un po’ letteraria. La creazione di una maschera immortale che rende tutto questo plausibile, la tristezza e l’euforia, la depressione e la voglia di condivisione. Si chiama Robert Smith ma ha un aspetto poco umano, quasi indefinibile. È un clown nero ma anche una rockstar post esaurimento nervoso. I capelli arruffati tenuti miracolosamente con la lacca. Gli occhi bistrati di nero che si spalancano fino a impaurire e poi si socchiudono indifesi. E poi c’è quella camminata a spalle strette che diventa poetico balletto da mimo impazzito. Non invecchierà mai questa maschera. Horror, circense, Tim Burton, Sorrentino. Invecchierà il suo interprete ma la maschera no. Ancora una volta abbandonerà l’amata chitarra con cui si protegge per guadagnarsi la scena durante Close to me e un po’ più svociata ma ancora più tragica interpreterà “l’incredibile spettacolo della vita e della morte”. Questa è la cura di Robert Smith per la vita.

La scaletta del concerto

Shake Dog Shake
Fascination Street
A Night Like This
The Walk
Push
In Between Days
Play for Today
Step Into the Light
Pictures of You
Lullaby
Kyoto Song
High
Charlotte Sometimes
Lovesong
Just Like Heaven
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
One Hundred Years
Give Me It

It Can Never Be the Same
Burn
A Forest

Want
Never Enough
Wrong Number

The Lovecats
Hot Hot Hot!!!
Let’s Go to Bed
Friday I’m in Love
Boys Don’t Cry
Close to Me
Why Can’t I Be You?

© Gianni Santoro

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, 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 and The Human League saved Bestival from being the worst festival of the summer

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Since Bestival began on the Isle of Wight in 2004, the key to its appeal for punters has always been the fancy dress. This year’s theme was “the future” – think sparkly spacemen, stormtroopers and dystopian Mad Max get-up – which is ironic given that the festival’s ethos has increasingly veered towards nostalgia, with acts such as Duran Duran, Elton John and Stevie Wonder all having headlined here in recent times.

Continuing that trend, the 2016 bill was topped by Eighties post-punk band The Cure and also featured synth-pop trio The Human League, UK garage singer Craig David and, er, Nineties kids’ TV entertainers The Chuckle Brothers.

By Bestival’s standards, it wasn’t a vintage year: Major Lazer, with their cacophonous mix of reggae and electronica, disappointed with a stuttering headline set on Friday, while Noughties dancehall star Sean Paul’s much-anticipated Sunday evening performance fell strangely flat. Were it not for The Cure and The Human League, then, this may well have been the weakest UK festival of the summer.

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The Cure, headlining Bestival for the second time in five years, played on the main stage on Saturday, heavy rain having forced the crowds to hopscotch through the chocolaty sludge to get there. Serving up an epic two-and-a-half-hour set, Robert Smith and Co ransacked their extensive back catalogue: the smothering gothic rock of the Seventeen Seconds album, the gloomy din of 1982’s Pornography, and the desolate soundscapes of 1989’s Disintegration were carefully interspersed with lighter moments from their mid-Eighties pop phase.

They took a while to warm up, their lesser-known tracks such as 1992’s High prompting puzzled looks from the young audience. But from the first chord of the bittersweet In Between Days, with its bouncy bass and honeyed melody contrasting beautifully with its motif of regret and lost love, the hits kept coming. Slinky classic Lullaby and heady rattles through crowd favourites Friday, I’m in Love and Boys Don’t Cry proved that The Cure are more than just mopey misanthropes with spider-hair and panda eyes.

Listen, for example, to The Love Cats, with its swing bassline, hissing guitars and infectious “doo da doo” refrain – here it was a wonderful reminder of the kind of idiosyncratic pop that the band are capable of.

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Fifty-seven-year-old Smith, kohl-eyed and back-combed as ever, is still armed with that inimitable voice, a pained delivery that sounds as if he’s constantly on the brink of tears, reaching high notes against the odds. “This song is responsible for all the songs coming from the other stages,” he said wryly, before an encore of the blissful Close to Me. And that’s why they’ve found a new generation of fans.

Just as impressive were The Human League, who turned in a giddy greatest hits set in the Big Top tent on Sunday night with Smith among the audience. Appearing onstage in a sleeveless leather tunic – the first of several outfits during the performance – a svelte-looking Philip Oakey, 60, was flanked by singers Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall, both of whom he recruited in Sheffield’s Crazy Daisy nightclub in 1980.

Age has not dimmed his enthusiasm, nor has it affected his voice; it remains imperious, a rich baritone that here provided weighty ballast to the coruscating keyboard lines and spry synthesised beats.

There were rousing renditions of 1982’s Mirror Man and 1995’s Tell Me When. But the apex of their set – and, perhaps, the festival – came with their beloved hit Don’t You Want Me. “You’re the only thing that keeps us going,” Oakey thanked the rapt audience. For giving The Human League this platform, Bestival deserves a pat on the back.

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