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.

Crónica de The Cure: Noche de largo aliento

La semana pasada, la legendaria banda inglesa The Cure comenzó la etapa europea de su gira mundial, llamada sencillamente “Tour 2016”. Estocolmo fue la 3ª parada en este recorrido, para la cual fueron acompañados por los escoceses The Twilight Sad.

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Había grandes expectativas sobre el concierto. Muchos fans habían viajado desde Helsinki, la anterior fecha – donde la banda no había tocado desde hacía 20 años- esperando cambios significativos en el setlist. Y es que lo que impresiona es el interés genuino de la banda en el repaso de su propia historia: The Cure ha ensayado noventa canciones para poder variar tanto como sea posible en ésta gira. Lo que nos hace pensar en otras bandas de estadio, que ya podrían hacer lo mismo en vez de tocar prácticamente las mismas canciones noche tras noche. The Cure ofreció un puñado de rarezas, algunas que no habían sido tocadas en directo en unas tres décadas y otras inéditas en vivo.

Se apagaron las luces y unas campanas sonaron en la oscuridad. Una especie de apertura flotante e hipnótica dio inicio a “Plainsong” e inmediatamente a “Pictures of You”, seguida de “Close Down”; un tríptico idéntico al que aparece en el disco ‘Disintegration’ que obedece a una atmósfera que encaja perfectamente con la helada lluvia de otoño que se asentó sobre Estocolmo esa noche. La apertura provocó grandes sensaciones, reflejadas en los rostros de los asistentes. A pesar de que ser un inicio relativamente tranquilo, pronto se pasaron al rock psicodélico con gemas como “The Baby Screams” y “Push”, provocando la reacción del público.

La acústica del Globen es de las más impresionantes que he experimentado en la vida. De hecho, el sonido era tan claro como el cristal, como estar escuchando un álbum en el salón. A Robert Smith se le veía igual que en los 80, vibrante y simpático. Sabiendo que el concierto va a durar mucho tiempo, el estado de ánimo en un principio es un poco perezoso y, aunque los suecos no son famosos precisamente por su efusividad, bailotean en sus asientos. Los aficionados de más de cuarenta añitos se toman todo muy tranquilamente. ¿Es más fácil hacer frente a los treinta y pico éxitos gigantes que se esperan si se lo toma uno con calma? Mientras busco la respuesta, pienso en como “In Between Days” y “Just Like Heaven” se deslizan más allá del tiempo.

Con casi cuarenta años de carrera, es obviamente difícil elegir qué canciones tocar, pero The Cure escapa del espectáculo y entran en la dimensión del contenido con “Sinking”, una interpretación tan intensa que provocó desmayos en las primeras filas.

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En “A Night Like This” la imagen del grupo se proyectaba escala en las cinco pantallas y se perdía en el infinito. Robert Smith emitía a menudo un cuasi aullido, que le hace parecerse a un gato satisfecho. Su pelo enredado se ha tornado gris, pero esa voz que le sale de los labios rojos pintados descuidadamente provoca tantas cosquillas como siempre.

El grupo es atravesado por haces de luz, decenas de ellos, e inicia “All I Want”, una forma de canción-lamento con corte directo a “The Walk”: es como estar en una montaña rusa, en un viaje esquizofrénico por diferentes emociones y estados de ánimo. Desde canciones – en apariencia- ingenuas, a la paranoia, el delirio y la sensación del fin del mundo.

En “The End of the World”, un garabato salido del arte del álbum The Cure baila en las pantallas al ritmo de la canción. Al finalizar, las luces se quedan bajitas primero en tonos azules y luego púrpuras, mientas se escuchan las primeras notas de “Love Song” que musicalmente suena algo menos deprimente y directa. En las sombras, Robert Smith coge la guitarra acústica para dar inicio a un set electroacústico, que inicia con “Friday I’m In Love” y la gente enloquece. En las pantallas se proyectan corazones con la estética del álbum ‘Wish’. Al terminar, sigue “Doing The Unstuck”, dejándonos un tono agridulce.

Es sorprende lo bien que conserva la voz Robert Smith, quien se muestra de buen ánimo, bailotea y conversa entre algunas de las canciones. Al terminar “Boys Don’t Cry”, comenta, al tiempo que coge su guitarra acústica: “Sé lo que estáis pensando: ¿Ahora qué van a tocar? A partir de aquí, ya sólo pueden ir cuesta abajo.” Sin embargo, tocaba el turno de otra joya: “Jupiter Crash”, una delicia musical, a la que le sigue “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”; la yuxtaposición entre ambas resulta simplemente fenomenal. Las guitarras Reeves Gabrels acompañan a Smith llorosas. Riffs inolvidables, angustiantes. Al fondo, en las pantallas, una imagen del mar durante una tormenta eléctrica, mientras la banda está inmersa en una luz azul. Robert deja la guitarra acústica para conducir a otra parte más eléctrica con “The Hungry Ghost”, seguida por una fantástica interpretación de “Disintegration”.

Primer Encore. Yngwie Malmsteen expresó una vez su total incomprensión ante el dicho “Menos es más”: “¿Cómo puede ser más, menos? Es imposible: Más es más…”. Robert Smith probablemente estaría de acuerdo.

Cuando The Cure dio un concierto en el Royal Albert Hall, años atrás, The Guardian escribió que deberían haber reducido el concierto a noventa minutos. La banda rechazó las críticas: “Cuando vemos un artista que somos aficionados, no queremos que el concierto termine. Eso es lo que significa ser un fan, ¿verdad?”

A su regreso al escenario, vendría otra rareza: “It Can Never Be The Same”, pieza profundamente sombría en la que Robert Smith suena bastante atormentado; uno de los estrenos predilectos de esta vuelta al mundo. Ya sumergidos en esta atmósfera angustiante vendría “One More Time”. Al finalizar, Robert coge una flauta que cuelga de su micrófono y las primeras notas de “Burn” se asoman. Desesperación llevada al extremo con el beat de Jason Cooper, que transformó la pieza en directo, contrastando unas percusiones casi festivas con la línea de bajo oscura y siniestra.

Las lucen quedan muy bajas y algunos haces verdes comienzan a filtrarse. Con los primeros acordes de “A Forest”, la gente bailó emocionada. El bosque delirante de sus pesadillas se proyectaba en el fondo dando vueltas. Hacia el final, cada acorde en el bajo es acompañado por casi diez mil palmas.

Segundo Encore. Los conciertos de The Cure no siempre ha sido tan largos. A finales de los años 80, se contentaron a menudo con veinticinco canciones. Pero después de que ‘Wild Mood Swings’ marcase el fin de su apogeo comercial en 1996, las listas de pistas comenzaron a expandirse. Tal vez sea una manera con la que Robert Smith mantiene la confianza en sí mismo, o tal vez sea sólo el gusto de tocar lo que le da la gana.

La banda sale del escenario unos minutos y, al regresar, Robert se frota el pecho y agradece tímidamente: “Tack!”. Entonces abordan la sombría “Shake Dog Shake” para conducir a otra pieza siniestra favorita: “Fascination Street”, repleta de riffs inolvidables y luces que formaban partículas de colores brillantes flotando en las pantallas del fondo, acentuando la atmósfera psicodélica y extraña. Inmediatamente inician “Never Enough”, en apariencia marcando un fuerte contraste; sin embargo, la audiencia participa y canta, al igual que con “Wrong Number”.

La banda sale nuevamente del escenario pero regresan pronto; quizá son conscientes de que es domingo y probablemente algunos de los asistentes trabajen al día siguiente. No sé porqué, pero este pensamiento me hizo recordar el momento en 2013 en el que el icono goth celebró su cumpleaños con un maratónico concierto de cincuenta canciones en la Ciudad de México, sacudido por un terremoto de 5,9 grados Richter.

Todavía quedaba un tercer encore. Y una especie de temblor es lo que provocan al regresar con los primeros acordes de “Lullaby”, reviviendo al públicio. En las pantallas se proyecta una araña en una telaraña gigante, moviéndose lenta e hipnóticamente. Al terminar, más sorpresas, y es que tocaron “The Perfect Girl”, una rareza que apenas han interpretado en vivo desde 1987. “Hot Hot Hot!!!” puso a cantar a los suecos de nuevo. Ya en la onda agridulce, continuaron con “The Caterpillar”, para seguir con “Close to Me”.

La banda agradeció con un bailable “Why Can’t I Be You?”, entregados al público. La banda enfrentó treinta y cinco canciones y ha estado de pie en el escenario durante más de tres horas. Robert será pálido y anémico, pero rockear sin parar no parece ser un problema. La banda tocó con sereno entusiasmo y fuego. De hecho, Simon Gallup bailó como un loco poseído por todo el escenario durante todo el concierto.

¿Será esta la última vez que veamos a una de las bandas favoritas de la historia? Si es así, sería un final muy digno. Pero la música persistirá durante generaciones.

Póster de la gira de The Cure en España (2016), pasando por Madrid, Bilbao y Barcelona en Noviembre

© Rebeca Martell

Mrs Smith

“Mary means so incomprehensibly much to me. I actually don’t think she has ever realized how dependant I’ve been of her during all these years we’ve been together. She’s always been the one that has saved me when I have been the most self-destructive, she’s always been the one that has caught me when I have been so very close to fall apart completely, and if she would have disappeared – I am sorry, I know that I’m falling into my irritating miserable image by saying it – then I would have killed myself.”

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Dan Orkin & Reverb

Robert Smith and band provide extraordinary trip down memory lane

In the mid ’80s there was a great little club halfway up Bridge Road in Richmond called Thrash and Treasure.

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It had a skinny, darkened doorway and inside was dimly lit, except for a small dance floor that shone with swaying, jumping teenagers; all soaking up the coolest music from England, the US and even some local tunes that got people off their chairs.

A snippet from this newspaper in 1987 advertises the joint as open “Wed, Sat until 3am. Alternative dance – old favourites, new cults.” Perfect.

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This vibrant, exciting little club wasn’t the first place I heard the Cure, but it was the first place I learned just how much songs like In Between Days, A Forest and The Caterpillar meant to me, particularly with the volume turned way up.

Seeing the Cure on Thursday night at a sold-out Rod Laver Arena brought the sights, smells and the sounds of that club – all those fantastic songs that helped shape my teenage years – flooding back. A mostly over-40s crowd looked like they knew the feeling. There was a lot of love in the room.

Founding member Robert Smith, flanked by bass player and second-longest serving member Simon Gallup, have created a musical bond over 35 years that’s more than stood the test of time. Joined by David Bowie’s former Tin Machine guitarist Reeves Gabrels, keyboardist Roger O’Donnell and drummer Jason Cooper, the Cure in 2016 play a staggering three-hour show crammed with genuine hits and, for many, fond memories.

Early in the show Pictures of You, from 1989’s Disintegration album, and Smith had already taken the main focus; his distinctive ghostly white face, red lips and shock of wild black hair as quintessentially the Cure as any fan could hope to see.

Lesser known tracks Closedown and A Night Like This soon followed before the seminal electronic mix of The Walk blasted off the stage, coloured lights bathing the crowd as Smith and thousands of smiling fans sang: “We walked around the lake, And woke up in the rain.” Forty years after he formed the Cure, Smith’s voice showed no signs of faltering this night. Did I mention the band played for three hours? Incredible.

Inbetween Days (from 1985’s The Head on the Door album) brought a huge, joyous roar that was equalled only – in the first hour anyway – by the perfect pop of Friday I’m In Love.

Midway through the show Lovesong and Just Like Heaven lifted the euphoric feeling around the stadium another notch. People danced, sang, remembered when they’d first heard this line or that line, that drum beat or keyboard sound. Did I mention there was a lot of love in the room?

Four encores that lasted as long as the first hour and a half of the show included A Forest, Lullaby, Let’s Go To Bed, Close To MeThe Lovecats, Why Can’t I Be You? and Boys Don’t Cry.

The Cure don’t need to play such long shows, they do it because fans enjoy the whole experience.

And if the start of this extraordinary night felt like a trip down memory lane, the second half was more like the party you want to be at today.

© Martin Boulton & The Sydney Morning Herald