For 25 years the Cure have existed in a private world of their own, sending out regular musical souvenirs to the rest of the planet. But they're about to stop that world and get off.
Since the release of their BloodFlowers album in February there's been an unspoken pact that it was the final Cure album and their current tour their last. Cure frontman and soul remaining founding member Robert Smith now confirms it. "It's been kept within the band," Smith says. "I haven't used it as a selling point. I've refused to allow anyone to use 'final tour' on any of the advertising because I don't think it is really important. "I want it to be the best Cure tour. I suspect, well, kind of know it will be the last Cure tour, but that's unimportant. I don't want people to come and see us just because of that. "People should come to see us because they enjoy what were doing. For me it's immaterial. Anyone who is going to miss us is going to come anyway ; anyone who isn't isn't going to give a shit whether it's the last tour or not."
Perversely, the very fact that it's their final tour means Smith is enjoying it "more than anything I've ever done. Ever." He wants the Cure to go out on a high. "Everyone in the band is convinced it's the last time were going to do it," Smith says. "It just adds a certain poignancy to the whole performance. Some night you can see it on stage, people thinking, oh my god, 'God, this is the last time we'll tour city X'. that's a big deal after 20 plus years. It's a real wrench."
Will Robert Smith miss being in the Cure? "Hugely. But I think if I don't stop now I'll turn into a doddery old rock and roller and I don't want to do that." Indeed, the last time the Herald Sun spoke to Smith, for the bands Galore compilation in 1997, he'd spoken of quitting before he turned 40. "Yeah I'm a year out," Smith now 41, says. "It took me a year longer than I thought it would to make BloodFlowers. I wasn't banking on putting a big hole in my 'quit at 40' itinerary, but I took a few months off and changed the date to 41. I'm still on course."
However, while Smith says this will be the last Cure tour (and Australia the last leg of it ), he's not prepared to put the band on ice just yet. They may still play some festival shows next year. "There's a mental difference between playing a few concerts and doing a tour. A world tour for the Cure is six months plus, it's a huge undertaking. Once you've committed, that's it. You can't wake up and go, 'Actually, I don't really want to do it, I was only joking '. "Iv'e felt the motivation to do it has kind of disappeared. "this year the others convinced me it would be a good thing to do. I reluctantly agreed to it and I've surprised myself at how much fun I've had."
Fun probably isn't the word to describe the mood of the current Cure tour. Showcasing the bleak BloodFlowers, the marathon shows (they recently cracked the 3 hour-mark, and most go for at least 2 1/2) stretch right back through Cure history. At one recent show the encore consisted of the bulk of 1981's gloomy Faith album. Other recurring songs include such early tunes as A Forest, Boys Don't Cry and Primary, the pop hits Inbetween Days and Just Like Heaven, and songs from their classic Disintegration album, recently called one of the most depressing albums ever made. "It's quite intense," Smith warns of their live set. "We've got a pool of 50 songs. We've excluded any songs anyone in the band was unhappy about doing. There's a lot of old style Cure stuff in there and for me that's brilliant, to go on stage and sing in what is a much more emotional show than the shows we've been doing for the past few years. "And most of the performances this year have been of a really high standard. I've convinced everyone in the band that there is no next time if we don't get it right. And it's worked. A lot of band forget to pay attention to detail when you get to our stature."
CERTAINLY their stature is as impressive as their longevity and survival. They still perform their debut single, 1978's Killing An Arab, while new bands such as the Living End cover the song's b-side 10.15 Saturday Night. Twenty-odd years later, the Cure have I diehard following, yet can constantly reinvent their sound and vision. They have both flirted with the mainstream and slapped it in the face. They're like the boy scouts of alternative music, recruiting teenagers and weaning them onto the harder musical stuff, as well as being the alternative band pop fans can admit to liking. Indeed, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter says the Cure's Lovesong is his favourite tune. "There's no higher accolade," Smith jokes.
In their time the Cure have done electro pop (Let's Go To Bed), electro goth (Charlotte Sometimes), novelty (The Lovecats) and a trilogy of gloomy albums (Pornography , Disintegration , BloodFlowers). Their back catalogue stretches from an album of dance remixes to the primitive rock of their debut and over 27-million album sales. BloodFlowers, the 13th album, has been their most successful in years, despite having no singles or videos released from it. "Industry norms don't hold true for us. There's no mainstream T.V or radio airplay, so in some respects it's a low-key L.P, but I'd be more than happy if it was No.1 around the world," Smith says. "I wasn't putting out an album to be obscure. If it does well, it does well, that has always been my philosophy. Generally speaking, things have always done better than I have expected."
Indeed, the band operate in a weird arena, seen as alternative by the mainstream and commercial by the underground. "I've been frustrated by it . Why can't it be accepted that we do both? But it never really has. It hasn't done us that much harm. "From an artistic or creative point of view, albums like bloodFlowers or Pornography are much better albums than the pop albums. That's how I feel now, but when I made the Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me album I was really into doing an album like that. "The albums reflect how I was at that time. Looking back I prefer the melancholic, introspective side of the Cure. I've always felt more at home playing that type of music than jumping around doing the pop stuff."
When Smith's friend Billy Corgan split the Smashing Pumpkins, he said he couldn't keep fighting against the Britney's. Smith disagrees. "I've never felt in competition with other bands. I don't feel threatened by Britney Spears. I don't think we're competing for the same audience. "I've never thought we could occupy that top spot on the chart. I don't really think I'd like that, to be honest. The rewards of being slightly further down the ladder are greater than being at the top because you don't have to put up with half as much shit and you get to do what you enjoy."
Indeed, Smith admits he's sabotaged the Cure's career by avoiding more exposure at key moments , such as when they hit No.2 in the U.S with Lovesong (behind Janet Jackson). "There have been times when we've been on the verge of the sort of popularity that I know I would have found it really hard to cope with on a lot of levels. "I hate that sense of being public property. I really enjoy how when we play shows people come to see us and when we don't play I don't have to live in a bubble."
With the future of the Cure uncertain, Smith has long talked about a solo album. But he says now it might turn into another Cure album. "I'm torn. I like the idea of BloodFlowers being the last Cure album, but I'm not sure I wouldn't rather see what this line up (of the Cure) does with some of the songs I've earmarked for my solo record. "There's no big career plan. I'll try something. If it works it'll probably be a Cure album, if it doesn't I'll probably get some real musicians in!"
THERE'S also a whole swag of unreleased Cure material due to surface next year. "All the songs are there. The record company just sits on them because it's not going to sell. I'll have to phone up legal departments to get them . "In that respect I see what Billy (Corgan) was saying, the relentless struggle against the stifling nature of the major labels. If there isn't an X percentage return on their investment, they won't help. "Which is bollocks because they never earn money out of anyone except bands like us anyway. But they don't put any money back in, that's the difference. We fund all the other idiots."
THE AIR UP THERE'S ALMOST FINE
The Cure were last in Australia in 1992, touring their Wish album. At the time Robert Smith was battling his fear of flying, a fear he has almost conquered. "Me and Simon (Gallup) just meet early at the airport bar. It doesn't bother me as much as it used to. I've got a more fatalist perspective of it. "After 10 years of constant flying I realised there were other aspects of the travel that were doing my head in, rather than just the up-in-the-air part. "The constant missing of flights weighs you down. I have spent so long running futilely through airports with heavy bags and never actually getting anywhere. So I did stop flying, and we took busses, but lately we've been flying everywhere."
On the groups last Australian Tour, Smith avoided flying interstate. "We did a couple of journeys by road, and I made some enquiries about it this time, but the others said they'd kill me. "On paper the journey times look quite reasonable, but when your in the 16th hour and it's the middle of the night and no one's got a bed but me, things get a bit fractured!" Smith still claims that Australia is one of his favourite places, and on the groups last visit, he surprised many by visiting various dingy clubs. "We might go and see something cultural this time," Smith says. "Like a pool hall."- Cameron Adams
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