Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Cure

The Cure have always been a tricky proposition. On the one hand, Robert Smith and company have been perennially revered as one of the founding fathers and major movers of the much-maligned Goth-rock movement (although the band's misguidedly experimental and prosaic 1990s outputs did dilute their original musical template), and a true mainstay in the history of late 20th-century British rock. On the flip side of the coin, these morose Londoners have also been lambasted as being wilfully stranded in their own particular corner of the industry, stubbornly refusing to evolve their brand of Goth-rock beyond the point set by the monumental 1989 opus 'Disintegration'. Notwithstanding any accusations that The Cure are permanently stuck in a time warp of their own making, there is no questioning the simple fact that they did make some strikingly distinctive music throughout their nearly four decades in the business.

An inchoate collection of nervy post-punk songs, highlighted by the mistakenly controversial debut single 'Killing an Arab' and the cagey, skittering '10.15 Saturday Night', a strong indication of the existential angst that would mark much of their latter-day work.

A more developed work that saw the group settling into a more stable groove, 'Seventeen Seconds' also planted the seeds for their Goth-rock sensibilities, as evidenced in the bleakly thoughtful 'Play for Today', the sparse instrumental 'A Reflection', and most of all, in the ominous, cinematic classic 'A Forest', with its inimitable, deathless bass line. 

FAITH (1981)
Classic, standard-issue Cure comes to the forefront here, a morose, gloom-ridden affair with appropriately named songs like 'All Cats are Grey', 'The Funeral Party' and 'Doubt'. The song structures were as funereal as their titles, and most were weighed down in existential glumness, save for the frantically despairing 'The Drowning Man'.

Any album that begins with the line "It doesn't matter if we all die" (found in doomy opener 'One Hundred Years') is virtually guaranteed not to be a sunshine-and-butterflies affair, and 'Pornography' doesn't disappoint on that count. A leaden slab of undirected anger and existential despondency, with melancholic epics like 'The Hanging Garden', 'A Strange Day' and 'Cold'.

Arguably the band's poppiest effort, blithely highlighted by attendant hit singles 'In Between Days' (a faithful New Order facsimile, sound-wise) and 'Close to You' (a shuffling, horn-driven ditty). The album also displays its new-found accessibility in the almost lounge-jazzy 'A Night Like This' and the flamenco-inflected 'The Blood'.

An ambitious, sprawling double-album, with its stalwart straddling of diverse genres and tighter songwriting focus. Each song had the band dabbling in a different style, whether it's maudlin, almost mawkish balladry ('Catch'), straightforward guitar-pop ('Just Like Heaven'), metallic beasts ('Fight'), or slow-crawling Goth epics ('One More Time'). Elsewhere, there are virtually uncategorised numbers like the madcap combination of Motown and jangle-pop that is 'Hot Hot Hot', or the electro-thrash workout 'Shiver and Shake'.

The Cure's reputation as the premier Goth-rock band of all time was forever cemented with this magnificently mournful and dirge-like 1989 release, a veritable sonic cathedral in every sense of the word. Highlights include the terrifying-yet-amusing fairytale 'Lullaby', the pure, unadulterated Goth-poppish 'Lovesong', the sweeping, cinematic musical postcard 'Pictures of You' and the edgy, nihilistic 'Fascination Street'. The title track was a roaring, harrowing threnody that wailed on and on about unbearable romantic grief.

WISH (1992)
An album which tried to mix the lighter aspects of 'Disintegration' and the poppier elements of 'Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me', albeit with mixed results. It did spawn a gloriously, irresistibly catchy hit single, 'Friday I'm in Love', but it was Cure-by-the-numbers in other places, with standard-issue existentialist dirges ('From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea', 'Apart') and mid-paced Goth-pop ('A Letter to Elise', 'High').

An attempt to replicate the black-tiled Gothic ambience of 'Disintegration', but not as accomplished and effective as that earlier album. It did contain the superlative, tribal-rhythmic title track, a sort of semi-throwback to the 'Pornography' days, and other highlights, including the spacey, dream-poppish opener, 'Out of This World', and the bleakly chilling 'The Last Day of Summer'. However, the album misstepped in other places, in the disjointed, synth-dominated '39', and the pretty-but-slight 'There is No If'.

4:13 DREAM (2008)
A conscious update of the band's mid-1980s experiments with overt pop structures, but suffered from an obvious lack of songwriting focus. However, things like 'Freakshow', 'The Perfect Boy' and 'The Only One' did possess some degree of accessibility, and the opening 'Underneath the Stars' practically embodies the group's doomed romanticism in a suitably lengthy six minutes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s recent reformation was an unexpectedly fruitful and successful event for the veteran Liverpudlian synth-pop outfit, an occurrence made even more surprising by the fact that the original quartet instantly recaptured their erstwhile, reliably professional intra-band temperament, despite having not played together since the late 1980s. Platitudes from all quarters poured in, and even uppity music critics who had earlier snubbed the band’s make of accessibly elegant synth-pop conceded that their music does deserve a prominent spot in the annals of pop-music history. To commemorate this historic reunion, the four went on the road in 2007, performing their 1981 magnum opus ‘Architecture and Morality’ in its entirety at selected dates in Britain, with the rest of the set list comprising some stone-cold O.M.D. classics. Check out a particularly inspired rendition of the group’s early-era mood piece ‘Messages’, presented in the hallowed surroundings of London’s legendary Hammersmith Apollo theatre.

Monday, October 01, 2012


Nine Inch Nails’ controversial industrial-rock opus ‘Closer’ is brilliantly, visually realised in a highly disturbing, but utterly compelling and slyly innovative short film, directed by award winning auteur Mark Romanek. Featuring all manner of unsettling, spine-chilling, truly graphic imagery, including scientific perverseness, sadomasochism, animal cruelty, sexual torture, and religious iconoclasm, this clip was deemed prominent enough to be added to the permanent electronic-media collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and litigious enough to be banned and/or censored by television networks the world over. Check out the edited version, which initially made its rounds on MTV in 1994, a multimedia set piece still miles ahead of any other music video put out since then.