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5/24/1986  Melody Maker
Waving Not Drowning

There arenít too many prizes for guessing anymore - most everything you hear makes perfect sense, scared stiff of shaking a leg in another direction or dipping a wick in someone elseís pond.

Thatís why Robert Smith, with his daft disrespect, his scarecrow scatology and his maverick mocking of the fascism of fashion, is more important now than heís ever been. Itís a role heís assumed reluctantly - like Prince, heís shy of the paraphernalia of celebrity, naturally suspicious of its so-called rewards. And, like Prince, he comes in at all the usual stuff weíre saddled with from some damn brutal angles and muddles up melodrama with whimsy, dreaming with waking, because thatís the way it is.

"Standing On A Beach", a chronological retrospective of all 13 of The Cureís singles, is evidence that time has been kind to Robert Smith because heís always been so acutely aware, in awe and afraid of it. He may have been kidding when he said heíd contemplated suicide at the thought of reaching 25 but many a true wordís spoken in jest, many a Freudian slip uttered in flippancy. Robert Smith is always on the run.

The sneering sarcasm of "Jumping Someone Elseís Train" was as deliberate a detonation of the pretty pop group that gave us the chirpy "Boys Donít Cry" as "BDC" itself must have seemed a happy-go-lucky way out of the existentialist reputation heíd ludicrously picked up through "Killing An Arab".

Smith simply couldnít, and still canít understand why people want to pigeonhole him, why pop has to be this or that, and the only external consideration that infiltrates his musical self-sufficiency is to escape categorization. Hence the rancid eroticism of "The Hanging Garden" purposely dragged the holy adrenaline of that brilliant romantic trio - "A Forest", "Primary" and "Charlotte Sometimes" - to the very depths of angst, a self-parodic purging that was by no means inevitable if you consider some of his contemporaries still trading off familiar maneuvers.

The immediate progeny were bitter-sweet revenge on those who took for granted that The Cure were serious young men concerned solely with maintaining their cool. "Letís Go To Bed" and "The Walk" ritually assassinated Smith the guitar hero and, with the exorcism effected, "Love Cats" was like a rebirth, not carefree but uncaring, bursting the sluice gates of the frustrated but, "Caterpillar" can wriggle up inside the sane skin as the beconistically confident "Inbetween Days" and "Close To Me".

But, idiot-dancing to "Standing On A Beach" , itís evident that apart from Smithís sheep paranoia of the responsibility of image of having to live up to anything for anyone but himself, thereís as much method in the madness as there is madness in the method. Just as Smith has constantly reviewed and renewed the bandís direction to avoid categorization and itís attendant temptations to tread water so Cure songs squirm around in their sockets, taunting their cliches into new shapes and sharper focus.

"Inbetween Days" may have jumped New Orderís train stylistically but that tune youíre singing is laced with a lyric that festers with fear. "Letís Go To Bed", too, is the treat and the promise, the suggestion of seduction and an escape from another weary day. And, further still, its lame hilarity and slightly laggard disco grind expose the hollow hear of the mating game and the forced nightclub glee. Significantly, Smithís voice has always been simultaneously as suggestive of sorrow as celebration, of panic as pleasure.

"Standing On A Beach" is a very great record the cassette version also includes 12 B-sides invisible on any LP), a tipsy captainís log of a calm, willfully all at sea because, after all, arenít we all?"

- Steve Sutherland

 

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