1/14/1984 New Musical Express
Purr-Gatory The Cure Japanese Whispers: The Cure Singles Nov 82: Nov 83 (Fiction)
Hamm; 'Can there be misery - (he yawns) - loftier than mine? No doubt. Formerly. But now?' (From Endgame, a play by Samuel Beckett)
Let's face it: some folks can make a profession out of misery. Robert Smith is one such. Mean-voiced, sombre-mooded, and balanced on the knife edge of both post-punkish (fashionable) nihilism and mass popularity, I like The Cure for the contradictions they embody, but loathe them for the vision of the world they depict.
Pop meets gloom in The Cure, and I'm on pop's side, 'cos this collection of singles shows them seemingly to wallow in being underground when any old fool could tell them that there isn't any underground, or subculture or whathaveyou, worth being in anymore. (Or, at least, not one that spans the whole gamut of human experience from Neasden Comp to Eton and back again, like punk did.)
They are reaching out for bigger gestures than they can make on their own, but not realising how hollow they sound. Smith's hazy mixture of lyrics claim the world (apocalyptic imagery and the lot) but haven't got anywhere to put their frustration, anger and the sense of futile desire; so they turn in on themselves and burn all their anguish out in visions of failed relationships, duff forms of communication ('Speak My Language') and sombre nightmare versions of power used against loved ones.
This is what I hate about The Cure, because they don't seem able to see that all they are mourning is the wrong placing of a set of ideals into a sphere that cannot possibly fulfill them. They are the hollow men, but they don't seem to know it. And they depict women as if they are to blame for what is wrong with their worlds.
But I like The Cure for the gaudy terseness of their tunes. Those parts of their music hold all the emotionality, wistfulness and drive that all the post-punk underground-homelessness denies. I like them when they aren't trying to make big claims, but settle for the nuances of mood and subtleties of attraction that lurk in any one particular relationship.
The Cure are the angst-ridden dopplegangers of the pretty boys of pop. They seem to be able to externalise everything and feel very little of it. They need a cause. Perhaps '84 will give them one.
- Amanda Root