Hagley Road to Ladywood, "a peek into media culture & society"

July 20, 2008


I was 13 years old when i discovered The Cure in the summer of 1996. At the time I was listening to Britpop trite like Blur and cookie-cutter acts like The Prodigy, i was young and didn't know any better. But one morning I saw the video for Lovesong and I was stunned. The music was like nothing i had ever heard, poppy but with an extremely dark twist. The image of Robert Smith, with his teased out hair, black eyes and smeared red lips just blew me away. I knew straight away that this was a band worth investigating, so I went out and bought every Cure album that HMV had in stock and listened to them religously throughout the summer weeks. I even phoned my local radio station and told them it was my birthday just so they would play Friday I'm In Love!

I will never forget the experience of hearing the Disintegration album that first time in my bedroom at home. I felt the same as any Bowie-head felt the first time they heard Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars - elated, euphoric, emotional. I have never felt such a rush listening to an album before or since Disintegration. It is, in my opinion, the greatest album ever made. However, 1996 was not an ideal year in which to be a Cure fan. They had returned that year after a three year absence with an album called, Wild Mood Swings. This was an album that i liked (if not loved) very much, but it was mauled by the critics and sank without trace within two or three weeks of its release, rendering the band completely obsolete in their native England. You see, this was the year of Oasis, 60s-style guitar rock with a thuggish swagger. Good old-fashioned sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and idiotic phrases like "Mad For It!" were all the rage in both the UK and Ireland.

A young, Irish teenager, walking the streets of Cork in a Cure T-shirt and brandishing a doomed-out facial expression was bound to raise a few eyebrows! Cure fans delve a lot deeper than your average rock fan, the Cure's music influenced us to ponder about unattainable love and the harsh realities of life. Because of this i never stood much of a chance in school, i was always that "strange kid" in the corner.

If there was ever a moment when it seemed certain that the Cure belonged whole-heartedly to their legion of hardcore fans and completely seperate from the general, music-loving public, it was in June 1997, when they "headlined" a KROQ festival in Irvine, California "ahead" of both Oasis and Radiohead. Both the NME and the Melody Maker managed to review this one-off festival show and praised the Gallaghers and Radiohead to the hilt, whilst not even mentioning the headliner, what a bunch of snobs. As the years went on, the Cure drifted even further into obscurity, no longer an integral part of the music world, it was hard not to feel as if i had missed the boat so to speak. It was during this time that the band released what i believe was their last "great" album, 2000's Bloodflowers. It was the last CD that i remember listening to with that great sense of anticipation and almost tearful euphoria. Fast forward to the summer of 2004, i'm 21 years old, i have a full-time job where i have to abandon my black-clad wardrobe for the shirt and tie, i have grown, but I am still hurt and confused much the same way as during my adolesence. I still need my life soundtrack, i still need the Cure. Or so I thought.

That summer, I saw the Cure play live for the first time since falling for the band in '96. The venue was Ireland's very own "Oxegen Festival" in Co. Kildare. For the first time, i was literally surrounded by Cureheads, people in their late 30s and early 40s who had followed them since the early 1980s and of course, all those EMO kids that had found the band the previous year! Robert Smith and co. hit the stage late that night and what was supposed to be a vindication of my lonesome and often loathsome teenage years, ended up being nothing more than a routine festival appearance by a band that looked and sounded bored, worn-out and ultimately out of touch. When Hot Press reviewed the performance a week later and slated it, it was the first time I ever agreed with a bad Cure review.

I was bitterly disappointed upon leaving the venue that night in 2004, my love affair with the band was over. For the first time, i did not care for their next move, the next chapter in their story, i wasn't bothered. Funnily enough, in a complete turn-around of events, The Cure had found themselves back in fashion in 2004. Everyone wanted a piece of them from the NME to MTV who filmed an "Icon" show in their honour. They even released a self-titled album that year on which they sounded absolutely nothing like themselvles and sold 2 million. I was no longer their biggest supporter. To make matters worse, I ended up spending much of 2005 attending all those Cure fan conventions in the UK and parts of Europe, where i tried to rekindle my passion for the band, but to my horror, I found being in the company of hardcore Cureheads a tad overbearing. These guys, some of them in their early to mid-40s, still teasing out their hair and applying Smith's trademark smeared red lipstick, did my head in over the course of these trips.

It was hard not to get the impression that most of these guys were more into the band's image and the process of trying to outdo one another's look than an actual sincere love of the band's music. I did however form lasting friendships with much more laid-black and individual Cure fans that year, people that were and still are trying to be creative and make a name for themselves and not waking up everyday just to worship the band. With these charming new friends i would see the Cure perform three more times, Berlin and twice in London. By then, only nostalgia would draw me back each time.

To sum up, the Cure is not just a memory, lost in the confines of a long-gone adolesence, but a major part of my life growing up. Whenever I hear In Between Days, Lovesong or even lesser-known songs like 2 Late, i still know where i was and how i felt when i first heard them. No other band has had that kind of impact on my life. I am still deeply affected by their old music, but the difference now , is that their existance in 2008 and beyond matters very little to me. Quite naturally, i grew out of it all, i started to think for myself. What can i do? What can i create? Who can i touch with my music? Bands like the Cure don't exist just to be adored and worshipped by fans, they exist in order to inspire much younger people to create a niche of their own. Otherwise what was the point of this?
(From: Paul Jeremiah O' Connor, Cork, Ireland)

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