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5/1/1982  New Musical Express (4-21-82 Brighton, England Show Review)
Savage Scream Of Birth
The Cure

Like any valid pallative The Cure have not stood still inside the age that gave them birth. To meet even more blunt, oppressive times they have made themselves grow equally fearsome. These boys with very white knuckles and an awful lot on their minds...

By and unjust twist, The Cure have always appeared behind the times. As 'Shot By Both Sides' was ushering in a guantlet of ideas of unprecedented daring they suggested instead the similarly sophisticated but paradoxically primitive 'Killing An Arab' as their opening shot. It initiated a train of thought that ran crucially askew with its times, culminating in the stifling, repressive luxuriance of 'Faith' last year, the reverse face of Joy Division's shocked currency of despair: when Robert Smith sang of a funeral party he made sure the image was frozen inside and irresistibly strong melodic climate. It rang with a contrary decadence.

That strain of resolute melancholy was, though, a painful expression at a time when pop was reasserting its material states that The Cure have taken the hardest road - they have responded by increasing, not slackening off an assault powered by an almost ecstatic vitriol. Their current tour, of which this was an early gig, is set to pitilessly lambast their audience.

But then, what is Robert Smith singing about? I doubt if his listeners know and I'm not sure I do. I certainly found it impossible to distinguish lyric structure in the current Cure songcycle, although I do have some ideas on it, and Smith's thunderous, adenoidal tenor speaks at a single level: wired, all through. It's easy to be obsessed by Smith in a live situation, stubbornly static and spellbound by his microphone; but it is the unity of The Cure that pinions the attention.

This is a search for an electric music that bludgeons, hacks and stabs at the greyness The Cure have always had cast over them - and for one that also has a shy, squishy core of acoustic sweetness hiding within. An impossible collusion, of course, and the songs from 'Pornography' imply that they've gone for broke on a breed of aural violence that finally unshackles the savagery tht has always slept inside The cure. Yet Smith is reluctant to surrender the germ of pop in his fibre.

It's all very skillfully deployed: a bruisingly clear sound of scathing force, a clockwork, Pavlovian lightshow, a variegation of light and shade in the song order that builds to the unmitigating force of 'Pornography' itself as the climax. The Cure invest their earlier work with a tautness that reviatlises their interest in songs that they know too well - after all, 'Primary' and 'Faith' remain conceptions of gravid power - and use them as practice courts for the ever darker tones of the 'Pornography' music.

Some of which is brutally disturbing. 'One Hundred Years' is tortuously strung across guidelines of synthesised menace, the combative tensions of Smith's guitar and Gallup's bass and a vocal of epic velocity; but it's 'Pornography' that swamps everything that went before. Prefaced by an indecipherable babel of voices the instruments gradually grow up and intensify to an endless pitched scream and Smith's harrowing voice guts its way inside before the edifice cracks. The tapes jabber on as the group disappear. The encore of '10.15 Saturday Night', a beautiful unrequited tragedy, was flawlessly delivered as if in relief of exorcism.

The Cure felt dissatisfied with this performance; Smith, on his birthday, looked dejected and tired. If this is second-string Cure then their best must be very close to the edge. By the time they reach Hammersmith there'll be few groups this live or this powerful.

- Richard Cook


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