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Let’s Get Happy: A Cure Primer

Blog > Let’s Get Happy: A Cure Primer

Written by Jeremy Hallock

Posted September 4, 2019

Robert Smith, who is now 60, recently announced that The Cure will release their first album since 2008 and that it won’t suck. He said it would happen by the end of the year, perhaps on Halloween.

Sure, Smith has lied about having some really great depressing songs on the way before. But a lot of good will has been built after a few years of great live shows, the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Smith’s hilariously wry interview at the Rock Hall going viral. Anticipation for a new Cure album is as high as it has been since the ’90s.

With the end of the year and Halloween near, we are getting a Kevin Shields suddenly releasing the third My Bloody Valentine album vibe. We could be listening to a new Cure album that doesn’t suck in days, folks. With that in mind, a Cure primer is in order.

Three Imaginary Boys (1979)

The debut album from this surprisingly moody English pop-punk band is great, but not especially cohesive. It’s already clear that Smith is a great guitar player, a compelling vocalist, and a weirdo. And the band absolutely clicks on tracks like “Accuracy.” “10:15 Saturday Night” and “Fire In Cairo” are timeless classics, but a cover of “Foxy Lady” sung by Michael Dempsey is among a few lesser tracks that clutter the album.

Seventeen Seconds (1980)

With Smith co-producing and exercising creative control, Seventeen Seconds is the first great Cure album. Heavily influenced by Siouxsie and the Banshees, Smith was also listening to Nick Drake, Hendrix, and Bowie and explored a darker mood with demos recorded on a Hammond organ. Matthieu Hartley was among the band’s new lineup and his synths give the music an elegant new sound. Recorded in a week, Seventeen Seconds is an early Goth rock classic.

Faith (1981)

Aiming for a “funereal” sound, Cure continued in the same shadowy vein. Simon Gallup plays a six-string bass guitar and there is no guitar on “All Cats Are Grey,” which features Smith on keyboards and piano. “Primary” is one of the Cure’s catchiest singles and Faith is ultimately a post-punk classic.

Pornography (1982)

After a successful non-album single, “Charlotte Sometimes,” the Cure’s fourth album captures the chaos of drug use, band in-fighting, and depression. One of their most influential albums, Pornography is as intense as the Cure gets and it marks the end of a trilogy that started with Seventeen Seconds. The album also features “The Hanging Garden,” an early favorite for many fans.

The Top (1984)

The Cure gets even weirder on The Top. The album opens with an ’80s pop rock song that could have been on the Top Gun soundtrack, one song has a Spanish style and another has Middle Eastern undertones. “The Caterpillar” is strange, maniacal, and addictive, but The Top is not an essential Cure album.

The Head on the Door (1985)

The Head on the Door, however, is an essential Cure record. These are perfect Goth pop songs that are mostly guitar-driven. Smith explored new musical directions with mixed results on The Top, but being eclectic absolutely works for him here. He plays “The Blood” in a flamenco style and “Kyoto Song” has an oriental hook, for example. The Head on the Door also includes classics like “In Between Days” and “Close to Me,” as well as fan favorites like “Push” and “A Night Like This.”

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)

With a double-cassette player, my aunt made me a cassette copy of this album. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories. The record has a great title, an amazing album cover, and it’s the first album Smith started with a lengthy song that begins with a long instrumental passage and ends with extremely emotional vocals. “Catch” and “How Beautiful You Are” are perfect songs and “Just Like Heaven” is definitely in the Cure’s top five essential tracks. Released as a double album, there are amazing moments here. But this could have been a perfect record if many of the tracks on the second half were omitted.

Disintegration (1989)

This album marks the spot where there is no turning back from the Cure being labeled as sad music or music for depressed people. The first three songs are long and heavy-handed, but full of stark beauty. “Lovesong” is absolutely the Cure’s best-known song and it has been covered by countless other acts. Smith’s vocal delivery on “Lullaby” is bizarre and the music is flawless, which makes it one of his most unforgettable tracks. With Disintegration, the Cure unveiled a new sound with slower guitar that leaned on synthesizers and keyboards.

Wish (1992)

A lot happened in the three years between albums. Grunge and alternative bands were ruling the charts and many ’80s rock acts were suddenly ancient. But the Cure had already been labeled as alternative rock by college radio stations in the ’80s and Wish was a huge success. “High” and “Friday I’m in Love” are truly great singles that have aged extremely well. And the album also has plenty of sad songs for the hardcore fans. But “Doing the Unstuck,” presumably Smith’s attempt to “get happy,” is a cringe-worthy track that signals trouble ahead.

Wild Mood Swings (1996)

The Cure’s first studio album in four years is definitely their worst album. What was so bad? Everything. The album cover and title, as well as tracks like “Strange Attraction,” which sound so watered-down that it’s fair to label them as easy listening. “The 13th” might be the band’s most insufferable track. This is the beginning of the low point for the Cure. Within a few years, people were literally asking Smith if he was in a band because they had no idea who he was.

Bloodflowers (2000)

After another four-year gap, The Cure returned with an album that was meant to be a return to form, but really just checks the boxes. It seems like the Cure was trying to sound like the Cure. All of these nine songs are long, but none of them ever approach the greatness of the band’s best work. The music is also repetitive enough that many of these tracks just simply go on for too long.

The Cure (2004)

Co-produced by Smith and a guy who worked with Korn and Limp Bizkit, the Cure returned with another bad album cover. This self-titled album is over the top, the nu metal vibes are awful, and Smith just seems to try too hard. It’s an earnest effort and recording the songs live in the studio adds intensity to the music. But the results, unfortunately, are just forgettable, which is perfectly exemplified by the single, “The End of the World.” This might be the Cure album fans have listened to least.

4:13 Dream (2008)

The Cure’s most recent album is another lightweight effort. Smith simply isn’t at his best here and fails to even come across as a strong songwriter because this music is forgettable and the production is dull. This album also comes across as incomplete and incoherent. 4:13 Dream was planned as one of two albums made up of dozens of songs Smith had recorded including “Sleep When I’m Dead,” which was written in 1985. The second album was never released, but it somehow had an even worse title, 4:14 Scream.