Volume 94, Issue 76
Wednesday, February 7, 2001
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Before there was Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson or whoever it is that kids listen to when they're depressed these days, there was The Cure.
Formed in late 1970s England, The Cure quickly established themselves as a unique part of the early '80s music scene. Led by make-up wearing, tousled hair-sporting frontman/songwriter Robert Smith, The Cure produced a string of hits, such as "Boys Don't Cry," "Killing An Arab" (inspired by Albert Camus' The Stranger) and "The Love Cats."
These songs and the albums from which they were drawn each displayed a distinctive post-punk sound that, combined with Smith's heartsick lyrics, made The Cure the perfect companion to teenage angst.
Thrust into the top of the pop pantheon with their 1987 release Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Smith and his band found themselves unsure of what to do next. The album that made them a household name wasn't really a true representation of what The Cure was about, boasting an upbeat, super-slick pop feel to much of it. After nearly breaking up, the group returned in 1989 with the record that stands as their masterpiece, Disintegration.
Opening with the impossibly big sounding "Plainsong," Disintegration was evidence of some remarkable musical growth. Throughout the album, the intricately arranged guitars, keyboards and rhythms mesh together to form an ambitious soundscape that works just as well on a track-by-track basis as it does as a whole.
As strong as the singles "Pictures Of You" and "Love Song" are (and they rank among The Cure's finest), the listener would be much better served to plug in some headphones, turn off the lights and take in the album from start to finish. Too often today, an album contains a few strong songs and a whole lot of filler. Disintegration is a reminder of the days when you could put on a CD and not have to keep your finger poised on the skip button.
As always, Smith's songs are filled with tales of heartbreak, longing and loneliness. Even when he gets overzealous and uses flowery similes and impenetrable poetics, one can still, quite clearly, get the sense that he is not a happy man. That's always been a part of the central paradox that is The Cure.
Though the band's subject matter is rarely anything happy, the music is often quite uplifting. The title track, with its rollicking bassline and insistent beat, sounds like a great dance number, but the lyrics are still rather sad.
Though it didn't perform quite as well as its predecessor, Disintegration was well received by both critics and the record buying public. In the years that followed, The Cure continued to record, releasing a series of albums that, though good, failed to recapture the brilliance of Disintegration or the sales of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.
When it was announced early last year that 2000's Bloodflowers would be The Cure's final album, it wasn't really a surprise. Smith has been trying to duplicate his masterpiece with every album, and having failed to do so, it's no wonder he can't bear to continue.
Aaron St. John
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