Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rocktimists: One of us really likes The Cure

Yeah, look, at this point I'm pretty much resigned to writing about one band until November.

The Cure played 4:13 Dream in its entirety for MTV Italy on Saturday. This was exciting. For me. If a 1,500 word song-by-song run down of a new Cure record seems about as enthralling as sci-fi buddy-comedy thriller The Pod People, then you might want to be somewhere else for a while. In an attempt to entice everybody to stay, I've included some amazing facts about Rome throughout the piece.

Some new songs, then:

Underneath The Stars - This one's generating a lot of Best Cure Song In Ages talk, but that's not exactly difficult when new material only comes out every four years. It is sounding like a terrific opener though. The studio version was played on French radio and gave the impression that the drumming was a bit lumpen, but that may have been down to some crap mono broadcasting. Otherwise, great stuff. A ten hour build up of Cure-centric noises, oceanic imagery and a bunch of romantic signifiers being crossed off like a bingo card.

Cure cliché watch: "Together as now / Forever as one."

The Only One - Haven't really had any additional thoughts about this between my singles post and this one. I prefer it live because Bob's vocals are a bit more realistically buried, which I think aids the song somewhat. On record, the switch between verse and chorus is jarring, like they don't actually belong together.

Cure cliché watch: Well it's "High" really, isn't it.

The Reasons Why - Is this the first Cure song about suicide? No, because "The Drowning Man" was based on goth starlet Fuchsia Groan chucking herself off some battlements in Gormenghast. I am a horrible nerd. Anyway, that doesn't matter because this is actually quite splendid. Maybe it's the novelty, but I'm liking it more than "Underneath The Stars" at present. It's all about the Gallup bassline. There's also a snippet ("in the darkness for one second I am sure I see the smiling man") which I'm convinced matches up with "and for one moment I remember a song" from "A Strange Day," but perhaps it doesn't. A definite reference to Joy Division though, with the "hear them calling me" section.

Cure cliché watch: "I am falling through the stars/skies, in their arms/eyes."

Freakshow - Still sounds like Freakshow. Still sounds alright.

Cure cliché watch: "Oh it's the same sway / The same smile."

It is said that all roads lead to Rome, but in fact this is not the case. Half of them lead away, or to shops and airports and stuff.

Sirensong - Another decent tune. This is turning out rather well so far isn't it? Indebted to "Jupiter Crash," but with added slide guitar (A Gibson Electric Lap Steel Guitar BR-9, train-spotting fans) - used in a way which isn't completely infuriating. Hurrah.

Cure cliché watch: SHE SAID SHE SAID SHE SAID

The Real Snow White - Some tasty Porl/Robert guitar work happening here. Hopefully that'll translate to the album. Bonus points for leaving the comfort zone with lines like "It's simply minimum height." Of course, that doesn't mean there's a sudden shortage of ...

Cure cliché watch: "I made a promise" / Drug Song.

The Hungry Ghost - Definitely a Buddhist-ey 'the root of suffering is craving' vibe going on here. I'd complain about the very rich musician saying OH SIGH I'M SO TIRED OF ALL THE CONSUMER THINGS I CAN AFFORD UNLIKE YOU, but it's prefaced by a self-depreciating Smith saying 'pfft, work' in reference to what he does, so he's probably well aware of the hypocrisy. Plus, I broadly agree with the sentiments but I'm not about to throw away my mp3 player. Which makes me the hypocrite, I guess. It's another bittersweet pop lovely. The intro sounds familiar but I can't place it at present. Not too sure about "a pimple out of every pit" as a lyric either.

Cure cliché watch: "Make believe it's like no-one knows."

Switch - Ooooh lordy, it's a wah-wah guitar blitz. And some obvious drum loops. Whatever happened to everything being LIVE, huh HUH? (I don't care). Reminds me of "Shiver and Shake" but with less Tolhurst-bashing, and I like the way he sing-talks "My friends are as strangers / And strangers as friends" in the chorus. It skirts close to cliché-land but the delivery saves it. In any case, it had no chance because ...

Cure cliché watch: "And every day my world gets older and colder and slow."

Roman emperor Nero used to burn Christians in order to provide light for his garden parties. Thanks to the invention of electricity we now only do this for fun.

The Perfect Boy - Might be leaning more towards "Sleep When I'm Dead" or "Freakshow" as my favoured single at present. That could be because I like the live interpretation of "Sleep..." though. Bob sounds like he's straining for notes a little more than usual with this.

Cure cliché watch: It's called "The Perfect Boy."

This. Here and Now. With You. - Hmm, the first one I'm not too sure about. On quite a few of these new songs, Smith's firing out lyrics relatively quickly, following a melody or trying to create a hook. It works pretty well on "The Real Snow White," but nothing's sticking with me here. Something feels messy, like there's a lack of a core to hold the ideas together. Could sound better on the album I suppose.

Cure cliché watch: It's a 'me and my love on a windswept cliff the world can't touch us now this will be perfect forever' song. Again.

Sleep When I'm Dead - As mentioned, I like this better live than in single mix form. It has more energy to it and Porl's guitar hasn't been hidden at the back of the room underneath that pile of junk nobody ever moves. Supposedly the album mix makes it even LESS gutsy, but that might actually work. A fully floaty version could be great.

Cure cliché watch: It's a reworked mid-80s track, so technically none of the bits which now sound like clichés were Cure cliches at the time. Which mean, err, I guess it gets a free pass.

The Scream - Starts off with super-low vocals and sounding a lot like New Model Army's "1984." Really. Later, it gets especially excellent. There's a hint of (no ... but yes!) TRYING NEW THINGS here. Ok, it's just stealing the 'slowly building to insanity' thing from post-rock, but in Cure-land that's a big change. It's almost intense and unsettling. A bit.

Cure cliché watch: "Your eyes are too bright."

It is well known that everybody in Rome rides a scooter. However, few are aware that the vehicles are treated as family pets, often getting their own bed and chew toy.

It's Over - I'm annoyed that this one was renamed. It used to be called "Baby Rag Dog Book," which makes no fucking sense at all but is infinitely better than the boring "It's Over." I think in this microcosm of working titles we get a glimpse of Smith's rut of lyrical conservatism: why go back to the borderline Cure knock-off title "It's Over" when you have a much fresher, exciting one already in place? Is it down to fear, expectations, complacency? I don't know ... but it bothers me that other parts of this album may have been better before they were repainted with the default Cure brush. Hey, I love that brush, it's a great brush. But it's for picking out detail and trimmings, not slapping paint all over everything and calling it a day. All that out of the way, this track (name aside) actually rocks out like crazy. So that's encouraging.

Cure cliché watch: Renaming the song "It's Over," goddaaaaamn!

It was possibly a mistake to follow this performance with an encore of tested Cure classics for direct and immediate comparison, but hey.

For the full show in mp3 form and lots of other guff, visit the fine and upstanding Chain of Flowers news area.

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