Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ain't no Cure for love

I am an occasional goth. It says so right over there in the bios. To prove it, I'm going to waffle on about The Cure - some infamously occasional goths. Unless they're not goths at all. But let's not get into all that.

So yes, The Cure. Lovely, cuddly, wooly-jumpered Cure. They've just released "The Perfect Boy," the latest (and final) in a steady trickle of pre-album warm-up singles. A decade ago when I listened to nothing but The Cure* this would've felt tremendously exciting. It's been just four nimble years since I was being rather too kind to their lazily self-titled effort over at Stylus. But between my gaping-mouthed joy at being able to review a new Cure record (at last ... at last!) you can just about detect the subconscious reality: a few decent songs, Robert Smith far too loud in the mix, too much retreading the past, Ross Robinson a malign influence. I suppose the difference of four years is that I can recognise these things clearly now.

Which in a way is a bit shit. The me of four years ago would've wrung so much more out of these new singles. I still have the slavish desire to hear, consume, assess and categorise (not to mention write about) new Cure material ... but some of the resulting enjoyment has ebbed away. Maybe that means my opinion is now more 'trustworthy' or 'honest'? Not really, because I'm just sat in the 'slightly jaded fan' bunker instead. I still love these guys, I just know they're never, ever going to give us another Disintegration. Robert Smith has no more tricks left inside his massive white sneakers. Unless the band go nuts and record a concept album of freeform jazz-techno fusion, I know what to expect from this point on. Mostly the words 'dream' 'sky' 'hands' 'cats' 'rain' 'mouth' rearranged in different orders.

'She said'

Actually that's not quite true, because when it was announced that Porl Thompson was returning to the band I didn't expect him to come back looking like a bald old lady. But there you go.

His guitar still works and that's what matters.

Now! Watch along with the terrifically boring studio-shot videos as we delve into those aforementioned singles ...

The Only One / NY Trip
If they'd played this first one any safer you'd hear protective padding brushing against microphones. It's one of those sparkly, sky-reaching love songs we know Smith can probably dream up while gazing at the back of cereal packets by now, because he's put at least two of them on every album since 1985. 33% of it seems to be rather forward references to sucking and blowing and there are some nice glockenspiel-ey noises floating around if you listen hard. The b-side is a much soupier wah-wah beast with some undulating Smithicisms in the chorus and more 'you and I in love against the world' stuff. Or it may just be about a pleasant evening spent ice skating, I dunno.

Freakshow / All Kinds of Stuff
Much more like it. Herky-jerky social awkwardness and Smith sending his voice on a fun expedition to parts of his range that haven't been visited for a while. In classic contrary Cure style, "All Kinds of Stuff" is even better - with a big fat trundling bassline and a sandbox of Porl Thompson effects. His presence is turning out extremely well. Sure, it makes almost everything sound like it might've belonged on Wish, but at this juncture '92 vintage Cure is something to be clung on to and cherished.

Sleep When I'm Dead / Down Under
... Unless you can have Head on the Door-era Cure as well. This one was left in a dusty attic in the mid-80s and has been brought out for a second chance. Or something like that. It sits happily amongst all that strange stuff Smith was coming out with in his post-Top hangover, though not quite so vicious (compare and contrast "slit the cats like cheese" with "give it to the chicken and see if it clicks"). Having just praised Thompson, he sounds like he was recorded in a cardboard box here, but perhaps that wasn't his fault. The rest has much more swoop and sheen than the looser, quicker live version. I haven't decided whether I prefer that or not, yet. Our b-side here has been thoroughly analysed and found to share its genetic code with "A Pink Dream" and the Wild Mood Swings flip-side dynasty in general. Which is nice enough.

The Perfect Boy / Without You
Best of the lot. Best since "Cut Here." With the worst name. "The Only One" was already mining near self-referential territory, but this title's already been directly occupied by "The Perfect Girl," "The Exploding Boy" and (at a slight stretch) "Boys Don't Cry." Shoddy stuff. This is the other sparkly, sky-reaching 'us against the world' love song that .... wait a second, no it isn't. The male portion of this duo is fantastically cynical and laissez-faire about the whole love angle. Hurrah! Well, not hurrah that he's just using her for a good time, but hurrah that it deviates from the expected narrative. So there's dual perspectives, a super-splendid chorus with some over-processed shenanigans on Smith's voice (but damnit they WORK) and a picture of forthcoming disappointment presented so sweetly it may as well be a gerbil with a hidden wasting disease wearing a cute bow. Oh yes, and the b here is an acoustic-backed number with some mildly offputting vocal gymnastics. Moreso than usual. Instead of 'all' and 'choose' he belts out aaaaaLLLLLLLLLL!! and chooooooOOOOOOOOSSSSEEE!!!! which takes a fair bit of getting used to, to be quite honest.

Abusive relationship

More reasons to be cautiously happy: splendid persons 65daysofstatic are involved with a remix EP of the singles (so are some other pricks, but let's ignore them). Another song named "Underneath The Stars" keeps popping up which sounds ready to continue the tradition of solid-to-amazing Cure opening tracks (assuming it does open). Aaaand ... ooh, I dunno, the artwork should be alright too. Overall, I am quietly rocktimis ... no, no I really can't say that. Optimistic. I am optimistic. Quietly.

*Really. This sentence represents my listening habits at the time: Cure Cure Curey Cure Cure Cure, Cureity Cure Cure Siouxsie Cure Cure Some Random Radio Bollocks.

1 comment:

kyle said...

i'm going to hope you review the remix ep ("! The Only One (Remixed by Jared Leto, one-time member of Fight Club), Freakshow (remixed by AFI's Jade Puget), Sleep When I'm Dead (remixed by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance), The Perfect Boy (remixed by members of Fall Out Boy)." or so the email from Ideal Copy told me before i deleted it)