Why the Cure Matters

2019 is turning into a banner year for the Cure.

Back in March, the post-punk/Goth-turned-pop band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; they just celebrated the 30th anniversary of their landmark album Disintegration; and they announced their first new album in 11 years – an album that lead singer and founding member Robert Smith described as “dark” and “incredibly intense.”

Not bad for a band whose leader just turned 60 years old. And yes, he still sports mascara and teases his hair into a rat’s nest.

Since their debut in 1979, the Cure has been at the forefront of the alternative rock scene. Their dreary dirges laid the foundation for the Goth movement in the 80s and influenced numerous shoegaze bands; their albums Faith, Pornography and Disintegration are angry, depressing, but, at least in Disintegration‘s case, are laden with sometimes glorious (“Plainsong”) and sometimes peaceful synthesizers (“Untitled”). The Cure didn’t get depressed and moved on; they wallowed in it.

But toward the mid 1980s, Robert Smith and whoever was in his revolving door of a band at the time took a decidedly pop turn; first, it was the jazzy “Close to Me,” which featured trumpets – trumpets! – and the smooth, jangly guitar chords of “In Between Days.” Each subsequent album, with the exception of 2000’s Bloodflowers, found them turning more mainstream, with songs such as their first Top 40 hit, the perfectly sublime “Just Like Heaven,” and the wonderfully bubblegum “Friday I’m In Love.” You had to wonder what those Goths wearing black thought of their former idols.

It’s the Cure’s longevity and their contributions to the post-punk (and eventual alternative) scene that earned them entry into the Hall of Fame after 15 long years of waiting. Despite their later experimentation with pop, they haven’t had much chart success – two top 10 albums and one top 10 song (Disintegration‘s despondent “Lovesong”) in the United States. (Their success across the pond has been more pronounced, with eight top 10 albums and four top 10 singles. The Brits always have it figured out before us.)

The Cure paved the way for groups such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Interpol, the Smashing Pumpkins, and eventually, the third British Invasion of pop of the 1990s that consisted of Blur, Suede, Curve and the Chemical Brothers. Uproxx described them as “a sleeper cell lurking in the architecture of modern pop, influencing new generations of ponderous, gorgeous songs designed to guide teens through their most epic wallows. Indie, emo, Soundcloud rap, even mainstream pop — all of it has been touched in some way by the influence of The Cure.”

True, the Cure has dreamily passed through the 80s, 90s and 2000s with a small but dedicated legion of fans who hung on every despondent word that came out of Smith’s mouth. And he definitely has things to say – he has minced no words in declaring his distaste for such acts as Queen, U2, Wham, Whitney Houston and Morrissey. But no one has been able to pour such angst into songs as Smith has, with lyrics so beautiful and haunting and morose, fit to music that equals the mood. It’s everything a teenager could want in a song.

Disintegration, The Cure

Hopelessly drift
In the eyes of the ghost again
Down on my knees
And my hands in the air again

Pushing my face in the memory of you again
But I never know if it’s real
Never know how I wanted to feel
Never quite said what I wanted to say to you

Never quite managed the words to explain to you
Never quite knew how to make them believable
And now the time has gone
Another time…

– Untitled, The Cure (from Disintegration)

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