Saturday, March 24, 2012

Post-Wish Cure Discography Suggestions

My friend Adam has an epic message thread on facebook - he's revealing a music list to a few of his friends. You have to know Adam to understand about the lists. Seriously, when I read High Fidelity, it was like I was reading about Adam, with the lists. Anyway, I was about to start writing a comment on facebook to our friend Dan who had said that there are certain people in music who, in their later years now, he just pretends they are different people than their younger selves, because it's easier to do that than reconcile the brilliance of their youth to what they put out now. He mentioned Sinead O'Connor, Michael Stipe, and Robert Smith, and I can sort of understand why. I asked what his particular beef was with Smith and he told me:
Sure, stuff like "Why Can't I Be You?" was fun but it felt like by the time they got to "Friday I'm In Love" it's all they were doing. To be fair, I was paying less attention but I even listened to that recent album called "the Cure" and it just sounded static and underwhelming. That said, give me a few songs to really listen to and I'll seek em out and try again. I owe them that. And live, they still deliver. I'll give them that.
So, Dan, here's what I recommend as far as The Cure's discography post-Wish.




First off, you stopped too soon. I know, we all were there. Wish had some great songs, but it was no Disintegration. You heard songs like "Friday I'm In Love" and "High" and thought "Bob's too happy." Even a song like "A Letter to Elise," as sad as the words are, it's still a pop song, right? There was a lot of excess on Wish.

Which reminds me, I love the toy piano action on the "Unplugged" version of "Letter":


After Wish, there was a 4-year break. Bob ends Wish with "End," containing lyrics like "I think I've reached that point/where giving in and going on/are both the same dead end to me...Please stop loving me/I am none of these things." Who does this guy think he is, Eddie Vedder?


Then comes Wild Mood Swings, a record whose first single starts with...a trumpet? "The 13th" was an odd jaunt into latin rhythms, and not in a "good Cure" way, like the power flamenco of "The Blood" from The Head On the Door. It was just strange, and then that BIG "It feels GOOD!/Do it to me" chorus. Honestly, I like "The 13th" but I never cared much for the other "hit" off this record, "Mint Car."

The album was released, though, and you find there's much more to the record. The impassioned leadoff song "Want" finds our hero in a reflective mood, speaking plainly to overconsumption, not obliquely about relationships as it seems he was doing for a while.
I'm always wanting more
Anything I haven't got/
Everything/I want it all
I just can't stop
...
Drink more dreams more bed more drugs
More lust more lies more head more love
More fear more fun more pain more flesh
More stars more smiles more fame more sex
But however hard I want
I know deep down inside
I'll never really get more hope
Or any more time
So, instead of blaming the fans like he did at the end of Wish, he's now seeing the perils of the road of excess. But songs like "Return," there's a return to said excess: "Candlelight/Coconut ice...Stolichnaya/Banco de Gaia", and it's very specific about him being tied up at 3am in PVC.

The *great* songs on this record for me, though, are:
  • "Want," as mentioned above.
  • "Strange Attraction" - a straighforward story about him going to meet a girl who has sent him a flipbook of butterflies. Great story, GREAT ending.
  • "Jupiter Crash" - about two lovers watching comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collide with Jupiter on a beach and how differently they view it. Heartbreaking song, feelings all too familiar to many.
  • "Treasure" - This song is the de facto album-ender for me. Oblique, but so, so sad. It's akin to "Asleep" by The Smiths as one of the saddest songs I've ever heard.
So give Wild Mood Swings a listen. The whole thing. It's a pretty solid record, in my opinion, and one of their most overlooked.


Next up for them was another 4-year break and Bloodflowers arrived in 2000, later to be marked as the third album in the "Dark Trilogy" of Pornography, Disintegration, and Bloodflowers. These three records were played in their entirety in Berlin in 2002, documented on the Trilogy DVD. My favorite songs off Bloodflowers are "Out Of This World," "Maybe Someday" (the poppiest song on the record, which isn't saying a lot), and "Bloodflowers," an epic song that's more a companion to "The Kiss" than anything on Disintegration or Pornography. Once again in the last two songs, you get the feeling that he's burnt out and just doesn't want to go on anymore with the band.

But he does, and makes an album that, I agree with you, is probably the weakest Cure record for me: The Cure.

In between, though, they release Greatest Hits which includes a 2nd CD of "ehhh...ok" acoustic versions of every song on the CD.

There are two new songs included here, and "Cut Here" is one of my favorites, actually, similar (to me) to "2 Late," the b-side to "Love Song." "Cut Here" a bright song about...a friend of his who commits suicide.

Back to The Cure. It starts promisingly enough with "Lost - The Cure," a song that starts with the smoldering refrain of "I...can't find myself" and builds to a pounding, shouting climax. Again, another song more like "The Kiss," a blistering album-opener. The rest of the album, for me, falls flat. "Never" is ok, but not anything special.


4:13 Dream was released after four singles, "The Only One," "Freakshow," "Sleep When I'm Dead," and "The Perfect Boy" were released on the 13th day of May, June, July & August in 2008. "The Only One" is Robert enumerating the ways he loves his lover in plain-spoken hyper-sexual language: "Oh I love oh I love oh I love/What you do to my hips/When you blow me outside/And then suck me like this" Quite frank, but the song leaves something to be desired (pun not intended). It just makes me uncomfortable.


However, I did buy tickets to see them at Red Rocks, which I figured would be a perfect venue, and I was right. On a cool May evening, they opened with the languid "Underneath the Stars," which has also become a favorite Cure song. You really get that feeling of wanting that song playing out on a lanai in Hawai'i or somewhere as you finish a bottle of wine with your significant other.

Moving on, "The Reasons Why" isn't too bad. "Freakshow", however, is. "Sirensong" is pretty good, a nice little piano refrain like you find in some Cure songs. "The Real Snow White" has a decent chorus, but there's a lot to slog through to get there.

I really like "The Hungry Ghost" because it comes from a Buddhist idea of insatiable desire for more. It's similar to "Want" in its dismissal of consumerism.
A home plugged into every phone
Kimono coral floral print
Exclusive tint and cut reclusive
No it doesn't come for free
But it's the price
We pay for happiness 
The Hungry Ghosts scroll at Kyoto Museum, Kyoto, Japan.
The tune is good, and it's just pleasantly surprising to hear a concept like this addressed in western culture.

As for the rest of the songs on the record, I like "This. Here and Now. With You" and the ender "It's Over," another barn-burner. Amazing live. Check some of the videos of it on  YouTube. It started out being called "Baby Rag Dog Book". I wish they had kept that title.

Which seems like a good way to end this entry on post-Wish Cure songs. With a wish. 


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

For up-to-date Cure news and general fandom, check out Craig Parker's Chain Of Flowers - one of my favorite Cure sites for years.

26 comments:

  1. Thanks for the shout out. The old lists are still on archive.org http://web.archive.org/web/20020222173821/http://millennianet.com/dumyhead/yearend.html Not very interesting in retrospect but fun at the time. Amazingly wellthought out answer to an offhanded request. They were never a huge cup of tea for me but, like i said, I just bought the first album which i love. Maybe this "pretend they were two different bands" thing applies....

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    1. The first Cure record is so good. "Grinding Halt" is one of my favorite Cure songs. (I need to find a different phrase than "so-and-so is one of my favorite songs by them") "Object" is great postpunk.

      I knew most of the songs from the cassette of Boys Don't Cry that included the title track, "World War" "Plastic Passion" and "Jumping Someone Else's Train", none of which were on 3IB. They took off the goofy songs ("Foxy Lady", "Meathook", "Weedy Burton") & repackaged it with other songs. I liked "World War" a lot and years later heard that Robert didn't really like the song, and even noticed that the song was off subsequent releases of the Boys Don't Cry album. I was resigned to the fact that I'd never have a proper version of that song again...until they released it on the Join the Dots b-side comp! So now I have that and all the other b-sides that were on the b-side of the "Standing on a Beach" cassette.

      Sorry...where were we? Oh yeah! 3IB. Great record. :)

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  2. Really, they have been four distinct bands:
    Easy Cure (includes 3ib)
    the cure (17s-porno)
    "acid" cure (lgtb-top)
    "pop" cure (hotd onwards)

    I agree that almost everything post-disintegration is crap, but there have been some good moments. "underneath the stars" is transcendent, and probably the only time that they get as good as they ever were and make it look easy. "bloodflowers" was good, but not fun to listen to. I really liked them as a guitar based for piece, and an disappointed that it didn't last.

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    1. That's a pretty good breakdown, Ian. I'd say there's still some acid in the Kiss Me x 3 Cure, but that's just me being nitpicky. :)

      And I do agree with Dan, I feel like they've become a better live band. Robert is giving the fans what they want, with the Trilogy concerts, the Reflections concerts, the super deluxe editions of the albums, even including stuff he's said he doesn't like. He might be living on his legacy at this point, but he's doing it right, in my opinion.

      And that's not even entirely accurate. I should have mentioned his "guest" work as well. I particularly like his appearance on the Blink-182 album from 2003 on the song "All Of This."

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  3. I've created a playlist on Spotify with all of the suggested songs. I don't know anything about world licensing, etc, but hopefully this is easy for my friends stateside to check it out.

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  4. Nice idea as the post-DISINTEGRATION is generally bashed way too hard by both fans and the media. For the chosen WMS songs I agree so far (well, replacing the somehow flat "Treasure" for "Bare" and "Numb"), more or less same for BLOODFLOWERS and 4:13 DREAM.
    Coming to the "but" - part: Are you serious about ignoring "Before Three" from the selftitled 2004 album and mentioning "Never" instead? In my humble opinion that is the one Cure song that should be burned and forgotten until the end of times. ;-)
    And how about some B-Sides? "Adonais", "It used to be me", "Without you", you name it, they deserve being mentioned in such a list.

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    1. I guess I left "Before Three" off because the lyrics were kind of "meh" for me. But the tune is ok, yeah. :)

      I agree on the b-sides, I like lots of them, I forget the names right now. I know I like "A Pink Dream", and I think "Ocean", but for some reason I don't have Disc 3 of Join the Dots ripped! WTF?!? ;) But the albums are more accessible to Dan than the b-sides, that may have been why I didn't include them. Or maybe I just forgot. :)

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  5. You definitely convinced me of at least one thing: they didn't turn into the silly, whimsical band I caricatured them as after those singles off Wish.

    There are songs here that definitely reminded me of The Cure I love: "Underneath the Stars", "Numb" and "It's Over" were favorites. "This. Here and Now. With You." stood out as one that felt like an evolved sound for them that I also liked. The rest I didn't mind but it also didn't bowl me over.

    But, more importantly, this list and our Facebook thread (2 albums and then you're dead!) led me to a realization - most of the time it isn't the band's fault, it's just that I'm ready to move on. If they stick with their signature sound for too long, it feels boring. If it changes too dramatically, it feels calculated and dumb. Was talking to a friend about this with Elvis Costello recently. These days he either does something real slow and ballad-filled which makes me yearn for the early angry stuff or he puts out something rocking which elicits a response of "Yeah, but not as good".

    So it's not them, it's me. Maybe after a good run I just need some space.

    Thanks for putting this together though. I'll return to it again a bit later. They are an epic band that deserve their status as one of the true overlords of Alternative Rock.

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    1. I agree totally--I find a lot of Cure fans have lost that feeling they got from their earlier work, but the band hasn't changed so much. The mystique surrounding the band is gone, so they feel less attached to the new material. There's some great Cure songs post Wish, but like you mention, they are assessed as not as good.

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    2. Dan, that's kind of the realization I came to in my R.E.M. breakup post. That my confusion/dislike of their later stuff had nothing to do with me, in that they were following what they wanted to do, making the music that felt right to them. It also had everything to do with me, in that what they were doing didn't speak to me anymore. But in looking at it, only specific R.E.M. stuff ever did, so that shouldn't be surprising.

      With The Cure, I have *loved* almost everything they put out up to Wish, and that's why my surprise at liking WMS was...surprising. :) It was very different, and that took some getting used to. I've changed quite a bit, and have a lot of other bands that I like lately - Delorean, Foals, Cut Copy, Acapulco 44, etc. - Stuff that Robert probably likes, too. :)

      So, I imagine that RS is making the music he wants to make, and he's playing the shows he wants to play (have to say I was SHOCKED when he brought Lol in for those Oz shows), and he's still doing what he does. Kinda like Morrissey. And good for them. :)

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  6. My 2 cents worth - b sides included

    Post "Wish"

    Burn from The Crow soundtrack - essential!!!!!

    "Wild Mood Swings" era
    Want
    This Is A Lie
    Jupiter Crash
    Trap
    Treasure

    More Than This from X Files soundtrack

    "Bloodflowers" era
    Out Of This World
    Last Day Of Summer
    The Loudest Sound
    Bloodflowers

    Cut Here - single
    Signal To Noise - b side

    "The Cure" era
    Lost
    Labyrinth
    Before Three
    Anniversary
    The Promise
    Going Nowhere (bonus track in some areas)

    "4:13 Dream"
    Underneath The Stars
    The Hungry Ghost
    This Here And Now With you
    Sleep When I'm Dead
    The Scream
    All Kinds Of Stuff (b side)
    Without You (B side)

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    1. Thanks for chiming in! I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who likes "Jupiter Crash." I don't have the 4:13 b-sides, but a quick listen on iTunes would have me agree with you about "Without You." "All Kinds Of Stuff" sounds pretty good, too. Who knows why they include some on the album and some not. :)

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  7. the best post wish songs showcase their best talents of solid songwriting, lyrical and musical hooks, accessibility, and of course serious introspection OR whimsical fun:

    Wild Mood Swings (b-sides included):
    Want
    This is a Lie
    Jupiter Crash
    Bare (the greatest divorce song ever written)
    Waiting
    A Pink Dream
    It Used To Be Me

    Bloodflowers:
    Out of this World
    The Last Day of Summer (don't skip this one!)
    Bloodflowers

    Greatest Hits
    Personally, I think Cut Here and Signal To Noise are the WORST songs they've ever released. Just Say Yes is OK but not necessary.

    THE CURE:
    Labyrinth (some of his most emotive lyrics since 100 years)
    Before Three (another essential track)
    Truth, Goodness and Beauty (WHY wasn't this released in all countries!?)
    Going Nowhere

    4:13 Dream (including b-sides)
    The Hungry Ghost (another essential track)
    The Scream (should have started the album)
    All Kinds of Stuff (amazing)
    NY Trip (gorgeous instrumentation and so very under-rated)
    Underneath the Stars (I don't personally need it, but everyone else loves it--I think it doesn't fit in the mood of the album and it is after all, a Wish instrumental with lyrics originally called Uyea Sound)

    That's all--I had to chime in because I've loved every album with the exception of Mixed Up and Wild Mood Swings which were both OK.

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    1. That's surprising to hear about "Cut Here!" I'm such a sucker for pop hooks, though, that it's a total natural for me.

      Agreed on "The Last Day of Summer", and now that I listen to "Labyrinth" again, I can see that there's some good stuff to like there - kind of a harkening back to Pornography-era.

      It occurs to me that maybe part of the reason I (and others?) don't like The Cure much is because it isn't cohesive like Bloodflowers or Disintegration. It definitely seems like a transition album.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  8. I guess I'm in the minority in that I'm just as big a fan now as I was back in the Disintegration days, but I will admit that WMS and the self titled record are in my bottom third as far as ranking their albums. That said my list would be:

    WMS:
    Want
    Jupiter Crash
    Club America
    A Pink Dream

    Bloodflowers:
    Out of this World
    The Last Day of Summer
    There is no if...
    The Loudest Sound

    The Cure:
    Lost
    Labyrinth
    Before Three

    4:13:
    Underneath the Stars
    The Only One
    The Hungry Ghost
    This, Here and Now, With You
    Sleep When I'm Dead
    (Actually, 4:13 is my favorite Cure record post Disintegration, so I'd suggest checking the whole thing out. They're just a different band when Porl Thompson is playing with them.)

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    1. It's so great to see everyone's opinions on favorite tracks, even from the albums they don't necessarily like as much as others. Thanks for sharing!

      The lyrics to "There Is No If..." have always stood out to me. I don't recall many other songs with "sneezed" in it, especially as an anchor word. :)

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  9. Excellent stuff, and thank you for shedding light on the post-Wish era. Tricky stuff, explaining the post-1992 Cure to people! I took the time relatively recently to attempt to express how much they meant to me:
    http://www.makmodeler.com/?p=2196

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    1. Great story, Jason. :) I found myself smiling and nodding along when reading, especially "I started learning about record labels like 4AD, and began blindly buying things based on label affiliations and artwork on the cassettes and cds." SO TRUE. :) I remember buying 54-40 because they were featured on a Sire records ad with Depeche Mode & Erasure and someone else. I dug the record, but it was rootsy guitar rock, not synthpop. Learned that lesson the hard way. But we would take chances. There's no taking chances anymore, is there?

      I never went down the bootleg path, but our hair did take similar trajectories. :) I never had "Cure hair" in high school, but had a variation in college. A friend of mine around the time Kiss Me came out had Cure hair that I was really jealous of! But I grew mine out really long and then cut it because it just was too much to bother with. :) I occasionally grow it out a little, but never quite too long anymore. But I digress.

      Thanks again for sharing your Cure story!

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  10. If we are being honest most stuff post Wish is a not that great. But then I think Dirgeintegration is an over rated mess.

    Burn
    Want
    39
    Lost

    I think I have listened to 4:13 dream twice in its entirety before the vocal mix gets me racong for the off button

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    1. I don't know if Disintegration is overrated, but I can't say it's my favorite Cure record. I'm not a fan of "Lovesong" - I think it's their worst song - and I think the front half of the record is stronger than the second.

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  11. Actually I don't share the negative attitude most fans and critics have about the later Cure. Surely there are generally more fillers on the last four albums, but the killer-tracks are as good as any of the earlier stuff. Even if the whole 1978-1992 Cure releases wouldn't exist at all, the post "Wish" - Stuff still would make them my favourite band. And some of it is new and exciting an unlike everything they've done before. Just take the 2008 B-Side "Without you" with it's rather complex structure, it's 6/8 beat and Robert's very emotional singing, that's a song none of the 80s line-ups could have written or recorded.

    My favourites:

    WMS-Era:
    Want
    The 13th (I used to be shocked first, but love it ever since)
    Mint Car (one of the catchiest pop songs they ever did)
    Numb
    Bare
    It used to be me
    Waiting

    Bloodflowers-Era:
    Out of this world
    Last day of summer
    Blooflowers
    Spilt Milk
    (actually the whole album is good, so hard to pick individual tracks. A pity they didn't release any b-sides to it)

    The Cure-Era
    Lost
    Before Three
    Going Nowhere
    Truth, godness & beauty
    (Yep, that album is their worst record)

    4:13 Dream-Era
    Underneath the stars
    The perfect boy
    The hungry ghost
    NY Trip (much underrated as someone wrote)
    Without you (again, amazing song)

    I hope they add those "dark album" leftovers and combine it with newly a produced 4:13 Dream to a double album as Robert recently talked about. The 2008 stuff is pretty much ruined by that compressed production.

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    1. I wonder if Robert would ever do any sort of re-mixdowns to eliminate that compressed production?

      I have to say, I'm impressed that he's being such a completist about the re-releases & deluxe editions. He doesn't have to be, and plenty of artists who are going through the re-release dance either don't care or distance themselves from the projects.

      My favorite re-release is the 20th Anniversary of the Stone Roses' debut LP. The remix is exactly how I thought it should have sounded in the first place. :)

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  12. There is something strange about VMS. The demos were very good but the outcome was kind of mediocre. What happened meanwhile?
    Bloodflowers has very god sound, and when it comes to live (Dream Tour) it is actually fantastic in that end. The Cure 2004 is without any doubt the weakest album The Cure has released.

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    1. I'll have to check out the WMS demos, I'm not familiar with them. Do you think the mix is bad, or the move from demo to full studio versions - perhaps too many instruments or too produced?

      I admit, I'd like to hear a 3-piece band record from Robert again.

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  13. I'm one of those Cure fans who, while generally agreeing that the Cure post-Disintegration shows a falling-off from that album's majestic heights, still loves everything Smith touches. For me, no Cure song is bad; I just like some songs less than others. Someday on my own blog I'm going to write a nice long essay about the Cure and my relationship with their music. Anyway, this blog entry was food for thought, and I appreciate it.

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    1. As mentioned upthread, I do have Cure songs that I actively don't like, and it's not just because it's so popular. That aside, I'm a HUGE fan (obviously - but not as huge as some!) and regularly get on Cure kicks just to hear the scope of their musical journey.

      Glad you liked the post - I have ideas for more Cure-related posts, hope you stop by for those as well. :)

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