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12/24/1983  Melody Maker
The Cat's Whisper/Screaming Under The Stars
The Cure
Japanese Whispers: The Cure Singles Nov 82 - Nov 83

'...so wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully pretty...' The Cure might always have been pretty, had they put their minds to it, but somehow along the way they flew into a vast freezing fog-bank and didn't come out again. Until 'Love Cats', that is.

Without 'Love Cats', there would be very little purpose in this collection. It arrived suddenly out of the blue, a viciously playful slice of swing which took enormous pleasure in teasing and biting and misbehaving its way up the charts. Perhaps this was the real Robert Smith after all this time, still extravagantly forlorn and quite hopelessly faithless, but able to enjoy a little cold mockery nonetheless. At any rate it was quite easy to believe that 'Love Cats' was about fun, and that was all that mattered.

The rest of this eight-track compilation merely demonstrates in lingering detail where and how often The Cure went wrong. As tasty morsels to set before a public with a greedy sweet tooth, these songs simply don't figure. I suppose you could never accuse The Cure of 'selling out', for what that's worth. Established as purveyors of impenetrable gloom with absolutely no prospect of remission, they ran out of options. With Smith dashing off to become a Banshee, The Cure became a semi-abstraction to be activated when the mood took him. Perhaps this was the only alternative besides destroying the thing completely.

The bulk of 'Japanese Whispers' consists of small ideas and obsessive details. 'Let's Go To Bed' circles moodily around Smith's thin, pale voice. 'The Dream' is morbid funk full of holes - 'I watch in fascination, like a vampire bat,' sings Smith, abetted by woozy synths and chilly guitar. Indeed, it's remarkable that Smith has been able to extract so much mileage from his fairly limited fixations. Images of water, darkness and things being sucked dry abound, as do futile minor chords. 'Remember the time that the trees fell down,' sings Robert in 'Just One Kiss'. And of course, 'the sky went black'.

Occasionally things speed up a little, as in the spacious loneliness of 'The Upstairs Room', 'The Walk', too, is a little brighter, though genuine excitement is quite out of the question. 'We both play dead and cry out loud...' Give us a break, willya?

The thuds and moans of 'Lament' are business as usual, though in 'Speak My Language' you can detect hints of the honky tonk piano clatters away as a string bass twangs like rubber bands, and this wouldn't have been a bad effort at all if it had been fitted with a hook.

With musicians currently being auditioned for touring purposes, perhaps a new Cure is about to spring out and surprise everybody. But don't get rid of the valium yet.

- Adam Sweeting

 

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