Houston Calling

The Cure

July 4th, 2004 · No Comments

As a long-time fan of The Cure, I’m always happy with anticipation (yes, Cure fans can be happy) when I hear rumors about a new album or tour. This year, I almost choked on my Manic Panic when I found out that not only is The Cure releasing a new album (June 29), but that the band is also headlining the Curiosa Festival with Mogwai, Interpol, and The Rapture.

Let’s transport back to my bedroom sometime in the mid-eighties. There’s a Howard Jones poster on the wall. Maybe Sting and Tears for Fears. My pillow’s stained from the Oxy. My feet stink. So does my bedroom. My haircut sucks. My nose is too big for my face, and I am plagued with a horrid case of virginity. Basically, I’m a stereotypical teenage male.

A trip to the England and Switzerland over the summer helped to broaden my musical horizons a bit (Live Aid was going on at the time, and one of my fond memories was sitting in a cafe in Interlaken for hours, listening to the broadcast on BBC radio while eating fries and drinking Coke). That summer was an eye-opener. Not only did I hear a lot of bands I had never even heard of before (I led a pretty sheltered existence), the trip was the first time–well, let’s just say there were some firsts on that trip. You remember coming back from a summer vacation and swapping stories with your friends, right?

Musically, I had yet to venture much past the first two Tears for Fears albums, hadn’t yet fully embraced skateboarding or Black Flag (although In My Head was in my tape deck a lot), and had yet to discover a taste for beer. Music and girls were the only things on my mind. A close friend went out with some girl once or twice–his affinity for Mr. Mister, The Hooters, and The Outfield just wasn’t cutting it for her so she let him borrow a copy of Yaz‘s Upstairs at Eric’s. I loved it. Finally, something so different, something not on the radio a hundred times a day. A trendy girl in science class gave me a copy of The Swing by INXS. Another winner.

Then Pretty in Pink came out, and I found out about a lot of bands that I still enjoy 20 years later (that in itself makes me both laugh and cringe). That soundtrack helped shape my musical direction more than anything else until I got to college. I’ve written of this a bit before.

One day around that time, I received a package of tapes from the Columbia House Record and Tape Club (the suburbanite’s music store), and my musical life as I knew it was over. New Order‘s Low Life was in there. A favorite. What else? Depeche Mode‘s People are People and A Broken Frame. Maybe Synchronicity as well. But the one that most affected me was The Head on the Door by The Cure.

I cannot put my finger on why I liked The Cure so much, nor do I exactly remember why I chose that particular album–maybe I had heard a song on TCU’s radio station or George Gimarc played it at one point. Maybe it was the only one they had. Regardless, I was an instant fan and couldn’t stop myself from telling my friends, finding like-minded fans at school (there were a few, actually), and getting the band’s early albums like Faith and Pornography (which Smith has called “an extremely stressful, self-destructive period in my life,” something all young people can relate to). I was even able to snag copies of The Top and Boys Don’t Cry at some point. And I still have the vinyl bootleg of some shows from the early eighties–Fading Roots. The records are mislabeled, I was told, to get them through customs. Doesn’t matter.

The first CD I ever owned (thanks Mike & Brad) was Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, the album that got The Cure noticed in the U.S. It was 1987 and it had just been released–“the 12-inch remix of “Why Can’t I be You?” was starting to be big in clubs; Just Like Heaven” wasn’t yet a staple on the then-in-its-infancy alternative rock radio. I vaguely remember people at school who normally dismissed The Cure started to pay attention when this album was released–I think the local hard rock station (“Texas’ Best Rock” had played the intro track, “The Kiss,” whose searing guitars caught the attention of even the most ardent headbanger.

This album, and its follow-up, 1989’s Disintegration (with “Fascination Street” and “Pictures of You”) were the albums that took The Cure from the underground goth scene and propelled the band right upfront into the mainstream. Everyone, it seemed, was suddenly a fan. The late eighties and early nineties were not a good time for long-time Cure fans–we went from being able to see the band at normal-sized venues to being forced to endure stadium shows.

The Cure’s music has always made it to radio since, but the band has never really been able to reclaim the success of those two albums (although their albums consistently sell). There were a few attempts in the nineties, each with their share of decent songs, and always followed-up with lead singer Robert Smith’s claim that each album would be the last.

Bloodflowers, released in 2000, was hailed by many as the closest thing to their classic Pornography album, and long-time fans were not disappointed. It was a great effort, with long songs, loud guitars–and the typical gloom that is trademark Smith.

Fast-forward a few years. There’s a war going on. On more than one front. The music industry is in an uproar over piracy. Suing music fans–kids even. Radio conglomerates are at war with censors. Musicians are, in a few cases, at war with fans (Lars, I’m looking at you, you hack.)

But this seems the perfect time for The Cure to release a new record. With bands like Interpol, BRMC, and The Rapture paying homage to Joy Division, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and The Cure, respectively, the air is right for the old guard of new wave to swoop in and reap some of the rewards.

So this brings us to the new self-titled release by The Cure.

At once dark and gloomy, like basically everything the band has done before, The Cure again leads the listener into a winding world of depression and dementia. You can read my review of the new album on Swizzle-Stick’s website.

Any Cure fans out there? Discuss here.

You can get your tickets for Curiosa at Ticketmaster.

A great interview with Robert Smith from 1987 can be found here.

Oh, and for the very few people that came out to see The Pleased and The Shore (along with Gosling and Three Fantastic) last night at Fat Cat’s, thank you. At least the bands know there is a handful of people in Houston who appreciate good music. I saw Tody Castillo hanging about–good to see local musicians going out to see touring bands that are just starting out nationally. Granted, it is a holiday weekend but I think I counted just under 50 people there (including the four bands and the bartenders). Just sad. Not that I am not glad to have been able to see them play in such a small venue without the hassle of a crowd, but it just reaffirms what bands from other cities always relate to me–that the music scene in Houston is dead. Now, we know that not to be the case but it definitely doesn’t help when no one goes out to the shows. Too bad this wasn’t a Hands Up Houston show–that would’ve helped.

This just in: Rolling Stone and Filter both have articles on Robert Smith and The Cure.

Now Playing in My iPod: The Killers — Hot Fuss

Tags: Music