Autobiographical Order No. 309: The Cure – Pornography

There’s already been a lot that I’ve said about The Cure, most recently that they were the best band of the ’80s. And I stand by that. It’s hard to find a catalog in that decade that beats this band’s, unless you’re making the argument that the E Street Band and The Revolution count, though that’s even debatable, considering The Cure essentially released a string of flawless albums during that decade. (Exception: The Top, though it’s not without its charms.)

Early in 2014, when I started this interesting experiment—which is still going!—I participated in a kind of social media game: #JanuaryVinylChallenge (or whatever month it was) in which each day you’re supposed to post a new picture of a record falling under a different theme. One of them was the biggest collection of a single artist you have, and that one fell entirely to The Cure, and the reason they were the biggest in our collection was because of my wife. When I met her, they were her favorite band in the world. And arguably still are, at least in terms of the overall catalog. I had zero Cure albums when we combined our collections, and now we have pretty much all the essentials except Wish. (Which I’m not even sure is easy to find on vinyl.)

However, I made it my mission to fill in all the gaps. And that required purchasing a lot of items from fairly far back in the catalog. Happily Ever After was a fun find. And the Record Store Day version of Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me added a bit more value to the collection. But it wouldn’t be complete without Pornography. No collection is.

Pornography isn’t the number one most essential greatest Cure album of all time, which is obviously Disintegration. (One of the best albums released by any band in any genre.) But it’s sometimes my favorite, because it’s so dark, bleak and heavy. It’s angry and weird and psychedelic. It’s less a lament than a primal scream. The most abrasive and intense thing the band ever released, which they followed with “Let’s Go To Bed” and “Love Cats,” so clearly Robert Smith wasn’t about doing the same thing twice.

I never tire of hearing Pornography, simply because it’s an album that hasn’t been worn out through time and pop culture. It has no hits, just some weird and heavy dirges. And in 2015, a year after finally getting this on vinyl, my band spent some time learning “The Figurehead,” maybe the best song on the album, to play live for a cover set. That took some time to sort out to play it between two people, as the original arrangement is three (though arguably with more layers than that). But even though we played it countless times, I’m not sick of it. Maybe because the original isn’t the one that was played over and over again.

When I reached the conclusion that The Cure was the band whose records we had the most of, it was an educated guess based mostly on singles and EPs. But after my mad hunt to fill in all the gaps, I know it’s true. If we only had Pornography, though, that’d be a damn good start.

Rating: 10

Sound Quality: Great

 

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Autobiographical Order No. 269: The Cure – The Head On the Door

I think I’ve come to an important realization: The Cure were the best band of the 1980s. I don’t necessarily mean best ARTIST of the ’80s—that could easily go to Prince. (Or Springsteen or what have you), but The Cure, as a band, had a pretty unstoppable run of albums in the ’80s, consistent to the point where you could pick any album at random and still pluck out a winner. (Notable exception: The Top, which is good but not great.) There’s an argument to be made for The Smiths, though they released fewer albums, thus making a shorter streak. Or Depeche Mode, though the first few were mere hints of what they’d become—and their best album came out in 1990.

But The Cure? They owned the ’80s. Their masterpiece was inarguably 1989’s Disintegration, an album that’s probably in my top 20 albums of all time. Maybe top 10. It’s the kind of record that reveals new things each time you put it on, and you never lose that sense of awe or wonder when you hear it. But they had other masterpieces, like 1982’s Pornography. Or 1985’s The Head On the Door.

It feels weird to say it, but The Head On the Door is underrated. And it was a popular album—half a million copies sold in the U.S., radio hits including “In-Between Days” and “Close to Me,” basically a classic in every sense of the word. But it does tend to get overlooked in the shadow of the band’s more thematic achievements—particularly their “goth” trilogy, which also includes Bloodflowers (which itself is kind of underrated, though it’s not as good).

Perhaps it’s because The Head On the Door was the most pop The Cure had ever sounded at the time. “Close To Me,” for instance, was a sort of precursor to the group’s mega-hit “Just Like Heaven,” and all throughout the album there are more lighthearted or less psychedelically weird moments, such as “Six Different Ways.” There’s also a bitchin saxophone solo on “A Night Like This.” But it’s not as if The Cure lost their goth sensibility here. The Spanish guitar sound of “The Blood” carries more than its share of darkness (it’s called “The Blood,” after all), while “The Baby Screams” retains the post-punk gloom that the band carried in their early days. Plus “Push” is one of my favorite Cure songs of all time, a track that takes a long time to get where it’s going, but every moment is worth savoring.

And then they released two more phenomenal albums before the decade was up, and had already released three bonafide classics before this, not to mention a very good singles compilation. So there are certainly arguments for other bands being the best of the ’80s, but it’s hard to compete with The Cure.

Rating: 10.0

Sound Quality: Great

Autobiographical Order No. 252: The Cure – Happily Ever After

The Cure is one of the greatest bands of all-time. This isn’t an opinion, it’s indisputable fact. They’re amazing, and there’s really no acceptable retort. Other than that maybe they haven’t released a good album in 18 years, but to be fair, they’ve only released two since 2000’s Bloodflowers.

If I’m being totally honest, though, I owe much of my Cure fandom to my wife. When I met her, we were teenagers, and like any good goth teenager, she was a massive Cure fan. Still is, of course, two decades later. And while I, to some degree, liked The Cure when we met, thanks to my siblings introducing me to them long ago (I had a mixtape with “Close to Me” on it, most definitely), I don’t think I really realized how innovative and versatile a band they were until she introduced me to some of their early material. She made me a cassette of their first three albums when we were, I wanna say, 17? And it was eye-opening. Both albums are so starkly produced, so cold, so dark and isolated sounding. But they’re also so fucking cool. Faith is one of the most goth albums of all time. It has a song called “All Cats Are Grey”! (!!!) But it also has “Primary,” which is simply one of the most badass post-punk songs I know. Seventeen Seconds, meanwhile, is half mood pieces and half proto-goth jams, like “A Forest”— a strong contender for The Cure’s best song.

There aren’t really any bad albums between Three Imaginary Boys and Wish, though The Top is kind of weird. But good weird. (Here’s my write-up on that from way back—and yeah, the LP was my wife’s before we combined our collections.) However, the era of the band that I usually gravitate toward is their earlier post-punk material. Seventeen Seconds and Faith aren’t generally named as anyone’s absolute favorite Cure album, since Pornography and Disintegration exist (which are both perfect—perfect!). But these are damn close, to the point that I’d say they’re criminally underrated. As much as can be said of one of the most iconic bands of the past 40 years.

Now, sometime in early 2014 I started participating in those social media record-a-day challenges, in which one day was dedicated to a single artist’s collection. Naturally, I went with The Cure, since my wife had so many weird rare 12-inches and such, in addition to a handful of full-length albums. But it occurred to me that there were so many other albums we needed to fill out the collection with, so I started mining Discogs and used bins for other albums. This interesting Cure-iosity (groan) was a must-buy, partially because it was less expensive than buying both Faith and Seventeen Seconds separately. See, in 1982, A&M Records compiled the two albums together in one two-LP set for American release, as they hadn’t been issued in the U.S. before that, for reasons I’m not totally clear on. Possibly because of not having a U.S. distribution deal until then, though who even knows. The industry is strange.

No new copies of Happily Ever After exist—also, by the way, ironic name for a Cure release, no?—but it was an interesting compilation while it was being released. Both albums are must-hear LPs, and they’ve been reissued in the past couple years, so if you see this, pick it up, but if you see the studio albums on their own, definitely get them. They’re a couple of my favorites, and it’s all thanks to a cool girl I met in high school.

Rating: 9.3 (Seventeen Seconds)/ 9.6 (Faith)

Sound Quality: Great

Autobiographical Order No. 195: The Cure – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

So, if you’ve been keeping up with this series, you should recall that I bought a Grace Jones album on Record Store Day. For a buck. And left without buying anything else. To some that probably looks like a victory (and it was, I suppose), but it’s worth remembering that we actually went to a few stores on RSD on a mission to buy some specific things, which we didn’t even find. One of them was this reissue of The Cure’s seminal 1987 album, on red vinyl, and out of curiosity, I checked out what it was going for on eBay. Median price was around $45, which was more than the retail price by about 50 percent or so. Maybe more. Some were definitely going for upwards of $75, which to me seemed insane. After all, this was a pressing of something like 3,000 copies. As far as vinyl goes in the 21st century, that’s not that limited.

I did still want to grab a copy though. The thing with eBay, collector’s items (ostensibly anyway) and Record Store Day is that you sort of have to time it just right. And in this case, that means not buying something right away. On Record Store Day, when everybody’s frustrated that they didn’t get a copy, it’s easy to get people to pay three times what something’s worth. That’s the other thing about Record Store Day that annoys me: Flippers.

It only took me about a week or so to find a copy selling for about $30. I bought it, avoided the markup and felt pretty good about it. The irony is that it’s now one of the most valuable records in my collection, with the high on Discogs at over $80, and the median around $60.

The thing about this record is that it pretty much had to find its way into our household no matter what. My wife is the biggest Cure fan I know. And this essentially became a catalyst for filling in the rest of the gaps in our Cure vinyl collection. Which is to say: Most of their albums. She had a lot of 7-inches and 12-inches when we combined our collections, but for some reason not most of the full-lengths. And let me tell you, a record collection that doesn’t have the complete Cure discography up to Disintegration isn’t complete. And this, of course, is one of their best. If you don’t feel a tug at the heart strings when you hear “Just Like Heaven,” I don’t know what to say.

Rating: 9.4

Sound Quality: Great