heard on the wire

Starting at the violent sound

Play for Today

It had never been my intention to write about the Cure. Enough words have already been uttered about the band formed in the shadow of Gatwick Airport in 1976 and there’s nothing I can post here that hasn’t been heard, listened to, analysed, loved and hated myriad and more times before.

Suffice, therefore, to say that I remain ambivalent about a band capable of reaching heights few can ever hope to attain but one that all-too-often produced unremarkable records that belied their huge talent.

But even self-imposed rules are rules and thus to a song from 1980 that appeared on the Cure’s second LP, Seventeen Seconds. Lyrically bitter and melancholic, it sets the tone for the whole record and for what was to come next.

The Cure :: Play for Today

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Three Imaginary Boys, the band’s debut, had given no indication that its successor would be the first of a triptych of “gothic” LPs, each of which would confirm that while Smith was a writer of great songs, his band didn’t make great LPs. Yes, it featured arguably the Cure’s finest moment, A Forest, but otherwise it’s a mixed bag.

It’s a record I want to like, but somehow I can’t keep it close to my heart. Likewise Faith: released a year later this might best be described as a difficult record, despite the inclusion of the swooping, plaintive Primary, to my mind Smith’s finest song. Otherwise the LP sounds strained and uncomfortable, not least this song, which draws upon the frequently uncomfortable second, eponymous novel in Mervyn Peake’s astonishingly and brilliantly grotesque Gormenghast trilogy.

The Cure :: The Drowning Man

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Pornography is unquestionably the most consistent of the three, but it’s the one with no obviously oustanding track. It lies heavy on the ears, a thundering, rumbling, coming storm of sound without respite or relief, and condenses into the closing track.

The Cure :: A Strange Day

Audio MP3

 

Pornography signalled an end to dark introspection and a plunge into playful frivolity. Just a year later the Cure scored their first top ten hit with the execrable Love Cats and they were never quite the same again. There’s something of Love Cats’ jauntiness in this track from Seventeen Seconds, but mercifully it’s a lot less annoying.

The Cure :: Secrets

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Love Cats was, in truth, an aberration, and its contemporaries, Let’s Go to Bed and The Walk, were very good records. In truth the band had gone full circle, picking up again from where the first LP and early singles had left off. Of those singles, this features the Cure at their pre-goth very best. Primary may well be their finest song; this is my favourite.

The Cure :: Jumping Someone Else’s Train


Photo: Play for Today; BBC.

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