Category: robert smith

The Cure “Charlotte Sometimes” 1981. 12″ single, Fiction Records. The Cure released “Charlotte Sometimes” as a non-album single about six months after the Faith LP and it went to #44 in the UK. The Cure included it on their 1986 comp Staring at the Sea: The Singles, an album that I listened to rather incessantly in the 80′s (this 12″ is a very recent acquisition, picked up at record store in London). Robert Smith’s inspiration for the song was the “children’s novel by English writer Penelope Farmer, published in 1969. According to Smith: ‘There have been a lot of literary influences through the years; ‘Charlotte Sometimes’ was a very straight lift.’ Many lines in the song reflect lines directly from the book, such as ‘All the faces/All the voices blur/Change to one face/Change to one voice’ from the song, compared to the first sentence of the book, ‘By bedtime all the faces, the voices, had blurred for Charlotte to one face, one voice.’. The song continues: ‘Prepare yourself for bed/The light seems bright/And glares on white walls,’ and the book continues, ‘She prepared herself for bed… The light seemed too bright for them, glaring on white walls’. The title of the single’s B-side, “Splintered in Her Head”, was also taken from a line in the novel. The Cure later released another song based on the novel, ‘The Empty World,’ from their 1984 album The Top.” [Wiki] “Charlotte Sometimes” is a great representation of my favorite Cure music: the early stuff. Rich, dark and gothic. Swirly. Mysterious. “Splintered in Her Head” is also dark, but more ominous with whispers of industrial goth. On the 12″ single, both of those tracks appear on the A side; side B is a very long live version of “Faith” which The Cure recorded in Australia in 1981. 

Siouxise and the Banshees “Hyaena” released 35 years ago today, June 8th, 1984. Hyaena was the Banshee’s sixth LP and is particularly notable for featuring The Cure’s Robert Smith on guitar and keyboards. Ours is the US version that includes the single “Dear Prudence” which the Banshees released as a stand-alone in Europe in 1983 (it hit #5 in the UK). It’s a a masterful rework of the Beatles classic. Siouxsie’s clear voice and the Banshees’ gothy psychedelic soundscape takes Prudence (Mia Farrow’s sister) out of meditation in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and into the black-lit clubs of early 80′s Britain where she can transcend ego through trance dance. Also released as singles were “Swimming Horses” (#28 in the UK)  Robert Smith reworked the piano melody into “Six Different Ways” from The Cure’s Head on the Door LP (1985). The second and final single from Hyaena was “Dazzle,” a lush orchestral anthem introduced by members of London Symphonic Orchestra’s string section; “Dazzle” hit #33 on the UK charts. 

The Cure “Disintegration” released 30 years ago today, May 2nd, 1989. The Cure’s sensuous goth masterpiece was their 8th studio album and to that point their biggest hit; it still remains The Cure’s best-selling album and likely their most beloved. It went to #3 in the UK and to #12 in the US with its hit singles like “Lovesong” and “Pictures of You,” both ubiquitous features during my college freshman year. Disintegration was (thankfully) a marked departure from The Cure’s previous album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me from ‘87, which was fairly bright pop (for The Cure, anyway), and a return to the shadowy atmosphere of their early 80′s recordings like Pornography. Disintegration is pretty much as close to perfect a record can get: each song flows seamlessly to the next but never becomes redundant or boring. I love the singles: “Lullaby” (#5 UK, #74 US), “Fascination Street” (the deep, ominous groove on this one makes it my top single from the LP, reminding me of the Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography days – it went to #46 in the US and to #1 on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart; it was not released as a single in the UK), “Lovesong” (#18 UK, #2 US – their first and only US Top 10 hit and composed by Robert Smith as a wedding present to his new wife, Mary Poole) and “Pictures of You” (#27 UK, #71 US). But my favorite songs are the lush and less mainstream tracks like “Plainsong” – all shimmering wind chimes and ennui, “Closedown” – gorgeous goth perfection, “Last Dance” – the goth-jangle-guitar on here so so beautiful, and oh my god the flow from “Prayers for Rain” to “The Same Deep Water As You” is so thunderously sumptuous that I almost want to cry and then that same emotion carries into “Homesick.”

Disclosure: this particular record is a relatively new acquisition – a reissue double LP with gatefold cover. Back in the day I bought the CD (because, well, of course I did). We wanted to get an original vinyl release but were informed by an even bigger vinyl nerd expert that the original’s quality, quite frankly, sucked. With a run time of over 70 minutes, compressing the music to fit a standard release made the sound tinny: an anathema to an album like Disintegration. Also the vinyl produced from the mid-80′s on (until relatively recently) was cheap and the packaging even worse. On this reissue, the songs are luxuriously spread over four sides and cut from the original master tapes so the sound is…perfect. 

The Cure “The Top” released 35 years ago today, April 30th 1984. (Spoiler alert – another big Cure anniversary coming up this week.) The Top was The Cure’s 5th studio LP; it went to #10 on the UK album charts though barely made it onto the US Billboard’s Top 200, squeaking in at #180. I really love The Top – I think I got this copy in ‘85 or early ‘86. It was unevenly received by fans and critics at the time. Some called it timeless psychedelia, original and witty while others labelled it transitional, self-indulgent and forgettable. It certainly is unique, with a fantastic mixture of swirling psychedelic rock tinged with world music exotica (“Bird Mad Girl,” “Piggy in the Mirror” and “The Top”), eery goth (“The Empty World” and “Wailing Wall” which has a lot in common with Siouxsie and the Banshees – not surprising as Robert Smith was the Banshees’ guitarist at the time and had just completed his work on their 1984 album Hyaena), stomping post-punk (“Shake Dog Shake” – one of my favorite Cure songs – and “Give Me It”), new wave pop (“The Caterpillar” which was the only single The Cure released from The Top; it went to #7 in the UK) and even some shoe-gazey dream pop (“Dressing Up”). The track “Bananafishbones” manages to mash all of those descriptives into one single song. Allmusic says about The Top “an album obviously recorded under stress, drink, and drugs. More wildly experimental musically than anything before it, it laid the foundations for the Cure’s pattern of unpigeonholable albums that were to erase their reputation built by Pornography and eventually culminating in Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me… The Top is a transition, never really feeling like a full-length release, but it does meld all former phases of Rob and company, which would fully gel on The Head on the Door. At best an imperfect record, The Top is a necessary step in the evolution of the band.”

The Cure “Torn Down: Mixed Up Extras” 2018 (Record Store Day 2018 exclusive, limited release). Yesterday, April 21st, was Robert Smith’s 60th birthday (b. 1959). I’ve been hanging onto this 2 LP colored vinyl/picture disc filled with 18 tracks culled from The Cure’s discography beginning at their first album – and remixed by Robert Smith himself – since last year in anticipation of his big day (which I missed because we were visiting family for Easter). 

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Side A begins with the title track from Three Imaginary Boys (their debut, 1979), “Three Imaginary Boys (Help Me Mix),” which is sparse and alien as compared to the gothy original, followed by a much less urgent “M (Attack Mix)” off of Seventeen Seconds (1980), dreamy “The Drowning Man (Bright Birds Mix)” from Faith (1981) and the goth-goes-psychedelic “A Strange Day (Drowning Waves Mix)” pulled from Pornography (1982). Early Cure is my favorite Cure so the remixes are super-cool but also weird to my ears since I’m so used to the originals. 

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Side B continues with The Cure’s earlier recordings and also more material I’m most familiar with: a barely brightened version of “Just One Kiss (Remember Mix)” from Japanese Whispers (a singles comp released in ‘83), a really heavy take on “Shake Dog Shake (New Blood Mix)” from The Top (1984, and in my opinion one of their more under-appreciated LP’s), “A Night Like This (Hello Goodbye Mix)” from The Head on the Door (1985) which is one of the more bizarre remixes (to me, anyway) – it’s got this funky, pop beat with 80′s era saxaphone that’s jarring me a ton since this particular song (and album) was instrumental to teenage goth despondency (one reviewer I read said Smith, “turns it into a strange blend of yacht rock and acid jazz, with trademark levels of angst thrown in for good measure”) – and an electronica goes carnival funhouse version of “Like Cockatoos (Lonely in the Rain Mix)” from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987, this was the first Cure release I bought on CD back in the day, when vinyl was on its way “out” hahaha). 

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Side C kicks off with a track from Disintegration (1989, I think this was the last Cure LP I bought for many, many years): “Plainsong (Edge of the World Mix)” followed by “Never Enough (Time to Kill Mix)” from Mixed Up (1990, a remix album, which this 2018 release is the sequel to; “Never Enough” was the only new track on the LP), “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea (Love in Vain Mix)” from Wish (1992) and “Want (Time Mix)” off of Wild Mood Swings (1996). 

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Side D has “The Last Day of Summer (31st August Mix)” from Bloodflowers (2000), “Cut Here (If Only Mix)” from the 2001 compilation Greatest Hits (one of two new tracks among a bunch of their earlier singles), “Lost (Found Mix)” from The Cure (2004) and concludes with “It’s Over (Whisper Mix)” off of 4:13 Dream (2008). Since I’ve only half-heartedly listened to The Cure’s releases post-1989 I don’t have much to say about any of the remixes since I don’t really know the originals but some of the tracks on the final side remind me a lot of what David Bowie was doing in his later years.

Overall this is a really beautiful release – the vinyl is particularly mesmerizing as it spins on the turntable – and while I might not agree with all of the remixing (it’s not my place, really, to agree or disagree), it is certainly interesting to hear how Robert Smith reimagines his compositions from the past 40 years.

The Cure “Japanese Whispers” released 35 years ago today, December 6th, 1983. Fiction Records. Japanese Whispers: The Cure Singles Nov 82: Nov 83 is an early best-of comp of Cure hit non-album singles and b-sides. The singles included are, of course, great: “Let’s Go to Bed” (from late ‘82, it went to #44 in the UK),  “The Walk” (released mid-’83, it was The Cure’s first Top 20 hit in the UK, making it to #12, it’s also my favorite single on Japanese Whispers), and “The Lovecats” (from October ‘83, their first Top 10 which went to #7 in the UK). But really, my favorite tracks are not the singles, most especially the mysteriously lushly gothic tracks “The Dream” (the b-side to “The Walk”), “Just One Kiss” (the b-side to “Let’s Go to Bed”) and “Lament” (on the 12″ version of “The Walk”) as well as the brush-drum jazzy swing number “Speak My Language” (aptly, the b-side to the similar styled “The Lovecats”). 

Allmusic writes about Japanese Whispers, “After the fallout both psychologically and physically of Pornography, it looked unlikely that anyone would hear from the Cure ever again. Surprisingly, from 1982-1983 Robert Smith and (now keyboardist) Lol Tolhurst put out some of the catchiest singles of their career. “Let’s Go to Bed,” “The Walk,” and “The Lovecats” were not only singles that got the Cure radio play and made them a household name, but more importantly marked the next phase in the music of the Cure, which would reach its peak with albums like Head on the Door and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Dropping the stripped-down darkness of Faith and Pornography, the songs on Japanese Whispers (the aforementioned singles from that era, including all the B-sides) are light, dancy, and at times jazzy. Adding new keyboard sounds, old-timey percussion, standup bass, and some damn silly lyrics rejuvenated Robert Smith and sent him on a course that would cement his role as one of the most interesting musicians to emerge from the ‘80s underground. Japanese Whispers is one of those rare releases when a singles collection works just as well as a standard-issue album.”

The Cure “Pornography” released on either today’s date, May 3rd, or tomorrow’s, in 1982 (conflicting info possibly based on Brit v. US time zones). Psychedelic post-punk goth, Pornography – The Cure’s fourth album – is widely hailed as their best and is considered a pivotal point in the evolution of gothic rock; it reached #8 on the UK album charts. The bleak landscape that permeates the record stemmed from Robert Smith’s depression and exhaustion. Its recording was also fueled by a lot of alcohol and hallucinogens: the band tripped on acid and drank so much booze that “we built this mountain of empties in the corner, a gigantic pile of debris in the corner. It just grew and grew.”

The Cure released one single off of Pornography, “The Hanging Garden” which hit #32 in the UK. “The Hanging Garden’s” lyrics are featured in the original James O’Barr comic book The Crow.  During the production of the 1994 Brandon Lee film version, Robert Smith was asked if the single from Pornography could be used on the film’s official soundtrack. Smith like the comic so much he instead opted to write the original song “Burn” for the movie instead. I love “The Hanging Garden” as well as the other lush atmospheric tracks like “One Hundred Years,” which manages to sound both sparse and almost claustrophobically dense at the same time, “The Figurehead” with its darkly creepy bass line and lyrics like “A scream tears my clothes as the figurines tighten with spiders inside them and dust on the lips of a vision of hell,” and “A Strange Day” which incorporates a bit of jangling psychedelic guitar, adding just a whisper of lightness to a song that seems to describe  someone drowning in depression. The Cure also manages to slip in early industrial rhythmic elements, a precursor to the goth-psychedelic-industrial hybrid sound of bands like Love & Rockets on “A Short Term Effect” and “Cold” and finally goes full-on experimental tripping on the last track “Pornography.”

The Cure “Happily Ever After” 1981. Double LP comp of Seventeen Seconds (1980) and Faith (1981). Current mood: Side B Seventeen Seconds, “A Forest” in particular. (btw if you’re not familiar with The Cure’s early recordings, Happily Ever After is a total misnomer). I first heard “A Forest” on some radio program, probably a BBC recording from the early 80′s (I still have it on ancient cassette tape somewhere in the Vault), and was memorized by its haunting atmosphere: empty, dark and melancholy but not necessarily depressing. It’s easy to forget how amazing The Cure was pre-Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (though Disintegration is pretty good), weaving Robert Smith’s rich textures of guitar and keyboard with sparse bass (Simon Gallup) and minimalist drums (Laurence Tolhurst). The term “gloomscape” perfectly describes Seventeen Seconds, the soundtrack for an 1800′s gothic novel set in a vaguely haunted English manor. Faith is equally as gloomy – in fact the tracks “All Cats Are Grey” and “The Drowning Man” were inspired by Melvyn Peake’s Gormenghast series – though The Cure picked up the pace slightly on the single “Primary” which hit #43 on the UK charts, as well as on “Doubt” which sounds desperate rather than rushed. “Other Voices” is ghostly, the bass line providing a darkly creepy element. The title track “Faith,” the last song on the record, is epically gorgeous and a perfect ending for this gothically lush comp.