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5/1/1981  New Musical Express (5-7-81 Manchester, England Show Review)
Epic Cure For Gloom
The Cure

I'm standing in a shadowy alcove where no one can see me. I'm waiting for The Cure. In the dim, smoky hall a swarming mass of shabby romantics wait more patiently than I. But then, they're probably in love.

Robert Smith ambles casually on stage and looks with glazed eyes at the audience, faintly distorted reflections of himself. He smiles weakly, seems to be feigning impassivity and begins to pick out a very simple though deceptively hypnotic guitar riff. Within seconds the listeners are totally involved in The Cure's music, absorbed beyond distraction, engrossed beyond belief. Smith possesses those intangible qualitites that make him A (potential) Star; immediately he has assumed total control, is in complete command. He is the archetypal modern romantic, a cynical lover the ultimate hero for this dour age of gloomy imperfection. But he is growing tired...

Tonight's gig is like a condensed scenario that unfolds the development of Smith's art as songs from the vaguely optimistic 'Three Imaginary Boys' era and those from the far more stern and pessimistic 'Seventeen Seconds' album are mingled together and paralleled. It's easy to see how the almost starry-eyed naivety of the early pop songs has gradually been choked by the fatalistic melancholy that dominated the last album.

So disconsolate and despairing did The Cure seem then that it was no surprise to find that mood of uncheery pessimism still prevailing. The few new (as yet untitled) compositions they played tonight, were all joyless songs of mournful discontent, dreary anthems of frightening intensity. As The Cure approach that accursed third album period they seem to have few fresh ideas. Perhaps they have been strangled by cynicism.

Not that the events of this tour would kindle any young hopeful's heart with optimism's flame. In Europe they suffered a PA blowout and the loss of two roadies through physical injuries. They had their main truck impounded as they were about to board a ferry to Sweden and became involved in a bar brawl in Brussels. Back in good old Blighty, the day before this gig, the band treated themselves to a new jacket each which today had just been stolen. Little comfort for a combo who have only recently sustained the loss of their keyboard player, Matthieu Hartly, but such is the perilous world of the modern romantic.

Back as a three piece and without keyboards, The Cure cope adequately if not spectacularly well. Smith tries frantically hard to fill the gaps left by Hartly by producing some impeccable and alarmingly versatile guitar playing. Yet despite his best efforts, the swirling mass of colourful noises that was once The Cure's sound is often reduced to a very ordinary, very plain, monotonous drone; it's a dangerous and discomforting deficiency.

When The Cure have left the stage I remain standing, benumbed in my spot and worry a little. I think of Robert Smith and the corny but perhaps only slightly inapporpirate cliche, "This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you". But then, more seriously, I think of the gloomy hopelessness that seems to be sucking The Cure dry. I see them retreating into an introverted and defeatist's shell where no further artistic development may prosper.

The Cure are standing in a shadowy alcove where no one can see them. They're waiting... for themselves.

- Mick Duffy


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