The Glove Will Tear Us Apart

4588fc7e3e444038b7d331fdb4d8c684

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

 

Screaming Under The Stars

efayre4

A few months back, if anyone had been laying odds on a Summer artistic renaissance, The Cure surely wouldn’t even have figured in the reckoning. What with Robert Smith off doing his bit as a part-time Banshee and collaboration with Severin under the banner of The Glove, Lol Tolhurst denouncing his drum kit and starting on keyboards from scratch, Simon Gallup quitting altogether, no live action for nearly 14 months and the last single, “Let’s Go To Bed”, proving a half-hearted and unsuccessful disappointment, The Cure were, to all intents and purposes, widely considered a lost cause.

Strange, then, that when or if July ’83 is at all remembered popwise, two peaks will belong to The Cure. The first, a fragile, hallucinating shock hit single called “The Walk”, acts as a timely reminder that, even off-beam, Smith still figures among our acutest sensory autobiographers, vividly imparting his brooding introversion with all the organized passion of Ian McCulloch and some of the clipped authority of Siouxsie.

The second, last weekend’s retrospective at the Elephant Fayre, was testament that not only does the spirit of The Cure still exist despite (or because of ?) its creators extra curricular activities, but that in the risky corporate decision to ration its action, The Cure positively thrives.

efayre2

The Elephant Fayre, no matter what anybody feared beforehand, was not some Philistine promotional cash-in by a hastily concocted line-up. Far from it. After two warm-up (sweat out!) club dates, this temporary Cure functioned inspirationally, often on adrenaline alone, and achieved what few gigs on the last Cure tour managed – to convince the crowd that Smith’s obsessions are worth investigation.

Still scarred, but recovered from the sapping monotony of that last tour (which incidentally, very nearly did scupper The Cure), Smith responded energetically to the challenge of coaxing and cajoling a novice band through a set of songs obviously sacred to the thousands of spellbound Cure fans who’d made the trek south west. More animated and eagerly expressive than most of us can ever remember, Smith flirted with disaster and came through smiling.

Without trotting out the usual platitudes about performing on the edge evincing more stimulation that strict rehearsal, it’s true that this experimental Cure was the most eloquent ever. Andy Anderson is a magnificently muscular and sensitive drummer, producer Phil Thornally is a nervy bassist reveling in the opportunity to indulge in a little exhibitionism, and Lol is still a basic keyboard operator, stripping “The Drowning Man” and “At Night” down to their bare, painful essentials.

Screaming there, in a field under the stars, The Cure treated the Elephant Fayre to a set that evolved from tension through realization to exasperated ecstasy – “In Your House”, near the start, was furtive and taut with caution completely complementary to the song’s frozen fright. “Primary” and “Three Imaginary Boys” were looser excuses to stretch out and test their new rhythmic possibilities and, when they hit “100 Years”, they were beginning to believe that the telepathic mayhem that finally overcame the encores was well within their grasp.

efayre1

From something old sprang something new, and although there was no attempt to introduce new numbers or premier clues as to where The Cure might go from here, it was a show of strength with the power of trance a dominant blue fused from a doubtful grey.

For one marvelous, all too brief midnight, The Cure were back and, thanks to the Fayre (easily Britain’s best true “event”), we need no longer worry, they’ve assured us there’s a Cure present and all the signs are that The Cure future will be well worth the wait.

© Steve Sutherland & Melody Maker

Elephantastic Days

e-faire1

The heat! The dust! The flies! And especially those flying ants buzzing around your ears at night, keeping you awake and sounding like Hell’s hornets. All this and more comes as part of the Festival Experience, and are some of the perils of covering such an event.

But the best hazard of all befell my photographer and I on the Friday night. It was dark and we were hot-footing it over to the main stage for Clint Eastwood And General Saint. Negotiating collapsed bodies, cow-pats and the main stream on site was successfully achieved, but when caution was thrown to the wind Simon and I stumbled into an unfenced foul-smelling brook!

But with equipment undamaged and dignity restored, we arrived in time to see Eastwood and Saint introduced, and they quickly made their presence felt. The crucial difference about the pair when compared to most other reggae acts in this country is that their material is rooted in the situation in the UK; their exuberant humour is happy to ridicule any pomposity or righteousness and their sharp spread of social commentary invariably hits the nub of the problem addressed.

Asa result, the set was nicely contrasted and paced so that one moment the high-stepping, track-suited, on-stage antics of jaw-cracking vocal interplay on songs like ‘Matty Gunga Walk’, ‘Scandle In The Family’ and ‘DJ Reaction’ could crack you up with laughter. And then the mood would be broken by the sombre intro to ‘Nuclear Crisis’ or their tribute to four million unemployed who ask ‘Give Us A Job’.

The vital link to the success of Eastwood And Saint is their magnificent backing group, the Inity Rockers septet. They are one of the few UK reggae groups I’ve seen who can open the music out, pushing it mightily forward. Their several instrumental high-spots were contributed primarily from the soulful sax of Courtney Pines, the snakey wicked guitar licks from Cameron Pierre and Delroy’s stylish keyboards, the latter giving a new meaning to bum notes.

Perhaps the tightly knit Eastwood And Saint verbal and dance routine occasionally spilled over into the realm of cabaret, with the audience milking – for example, Saint teasing at the end of each song “another one bites the dust” – going a bit too far. But Eastwood And Saint are good fun for anyone’s money and their train is always worth catching.

Saturday daytime was an opportunity to find our bearings. The covered walkway shopping arcade felt, in the heat, like walking through a greenhouse but offered a wide range of clothes, food, antiques and other paraphenalia. The social, political, religious and welfare organisations were well represented, but seemed to draw few takers. So the most enjoyable activity was to have a drink on the Isles Of Elephant, a constructed platform streching out into the river Tiddy from which you could watch the swimmers and the mud-people, the latter being some of the stars of the weekend.

As twilight approached, so the beauty of the Elliot estate and the surrounding countryside became less incongruous with the opening rumblings of SPK. I could have been worried about them and their motives: from their publicity material with its pseudo-mystic Psychic TV predeliction for substituting K’s for C’s just like the Crowleyites and Sixties hippies, and for the possibility of them being another set of Rock Conceptualists whose words outshone their deeds.

But SPK ritually disembowelled the sequence, logic and time of Rock, presenting a vibrant music. Pre-recorded rhythms, sounds and textures provided the backdrop and any number of variants could be added, be they trumpet, the eerily phrased voice of Sinan, or the demolition derby percussion exploits of Graeme and Derek.

They embody the true spirit of un(en)forced internationalism: New Zealand, China and England are represented in this group and their tri-levelled pipe/metal/machine music is an apposite soundtrack for the holidaymakers from the North who had been hammering down the M5 that day.

SPK can summon up the trance of Tibetan monks, the solemnity of Catholic rites to conduct their own version of the Spanish Inquisition (the drill says it all) and the movement of the Industrial Age, and mould them into an exhilarating dance-form. Future recordings may indicate a marked step towards accessibility and club connection but in performance, SPK are a living, breathing trio celebrating the unity of Man and Machine. They can put me in their camp of concentration anytime.

e-faire2

The clear darkness of summer provided an essentially intimate setting for a date with the Cure, and the band didn’t let us down.

I’d had a sneak preview of the new line-up in Bath two nights previously, and it’s obvious that the personel changes have been for the better. The new recruits, drummer Andy Anderson and bassist Phil Thornally, have added a much needed zip and punch, which gives a freshness to the group that transcends the cocaine-suffused cocoon of numbness that afflicts some Cure recordings.

Over their four LPs and numerous singles, the Cure have inspired a devotion from their fans and have developed a group sensibility that parallels the progress of Joy Division into New Order.

Lyrically, the JD connection is in the field of more songs about Death, Rooms without a View, Water and Love Embittered, with the importance and drama invariably concluding with the drums. And the musical link with NO is shown by the moving away from Guitars and Doom, towards synthesisers and the maxim: Alienation? Enjoy Yourself! This Is The New Age!

The Cure’s set was long – some seventeen songs, none of them ‘seconds’ and running through what could be viewed as either a Greatest Hits swansong, or clearing out for a new era.

There were the classic atmosphere-laden, rolling pleas for help and understanding: ‘Figure Head’, ‘Drowning Man’, ‘Cold’ and ‘Hanging Garden’. The quasi-motorik anthems of ‘Forest’, ‘M’, ‘Play For Today’, ‘La Mente’ and the stunning ‘One Hundred Years’ where Anderson added a jet-propelled funk backbeat over which Robert Smith contributed a steaming, searing guitar solo that could saw your ears off.

And even the semi-punk/rock pulse of ‘Primary’ and ‘10.15’ were given a new dimension, driving their definition to a new frontier.

This was a group at ease with itself, supplying close on two hours of music that could score, sooth or scintillate without ever losing control, and they provided a classic illustration of the possibilities of imaginative rock music.

© Dave Massey & Melody Maker

Ain’t No Cure For The Summertime Blues

ElephantFayre

At 5UKP a day, the Elephant Fayre gets a better class of reveler. European festival-circuit hippies basked under the same blazing Cornwall sun as did those punkier sufferers who’d come especially to be Cured of their angst. The genteel setting and sounds of ‘Pornography’ wafting over the PA established the mood of a terminally subdued garden-party. After all, what could be more certain to wet-blanket unbridled summer holiday frolicking than the prospect of a set by the funboy Cure? As the shadows lengthened, so did our faces…

The greatly improved SPK quit the stage to tumultuous indifference, and aeons elapsed before the headliners walked on to a rapturous reception from the faithful – they were duly rewarded by a crystal clear, impassioned performance of some of the most banal pretentious and dreary music I’ve ever heard.

Robert Smith raises fourth-form poetry to new-heights. Here are some of the key words without which a Cure song would cease to exist – “mouth”, “fingers”, “eye”, “cold”, “kiss”, “mirror”, “die”, “cry”, and most important of all, “I”. Self-obsessed and self-important, Smith’s is the unremittingly tragic whine of the 17-year-old whose girlfriend has just given him the heave. With ’10.15’ he said it all; since then, Smith’s lyrics have become increasingly half-baked and ridiculously overwrought – and therein lies their appeal. What Tears For Fears are to pop, The Cure are to rock: bedsitter downers for the new Cold War.

And they play music to match. Devoid of all drama, tension or variety, a Cure song hangs on one solemn riff or forgettable melodic phrase, usually undertaken at a resounding plod. In this context, the relatively pacey ‘Primary’ bangs up the excitement ten-fold. But for the main part, a barbiturate litany of ‘The Figurehead’, ‘In Your House’ , ‘The Drowning Man’, ‘Cold’ etc. etc. drones on remorselessly.

“But it always feels the same”, whinges Smith in ‘Siamese Twins’, an emotion ironically shared with the forthright punter who bellowed “Booooring!” after one particularly lugubrious number. The Cure followed up with a song if anything even more monotonous, which moved our by now despairing critic to yell “You’re still boring, you BORING BASTARDS!!!”. True enough, but not the whole story.

‘One Hundred Years’ and a couple of others nag their way under the skin – though no further. The new rhythm section of bassist Phil Thornally and drummer Andy Anderson did what they had to do with force, precision and as much invention as they were allowed.

Since he joined hands with Steve Severin in The Glove, he’s revealed more of his intricately resonant brilliance, but this ability is wasted as mere adornment to The Cure’s self-pitying dirges. Smith’s talent is being steamed up in a mirror of his own making. He should get out of the bathroom and into the daylight.

© Matt Snow & NME