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

July 20, 2008

"Losing my virginity to Mixed Up"

I got into The Cure really because of the movie 'The Crow'. I just loved the music in the transformation sequence (Burn). I think I was 16 when the movie came out and I saw it at the cinema with a friend of mine who was 21. He told me it was The Cure that I'd got all fired up about (who I'd had very little exposure to at all before - they just weren't on my radar) and he lent me a copy of Mixed Up on CD.

I had only just got my first CD player so the only other music I had in that format was a dance compilation that came free with it! So I listened to Mixed Up on repeat for ages (because I loved it, not just because it was all I had!) until I saved enough money to buy the soundtrack from 'The Crow', Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and my own copy of Mixed Up.

The Kiss scared the hell out of me at first, but it was exciting, and I remember how I would sit around in my room listening to it, imagining all these filmic sequences that formed a coherent story alongside it.

I just went Cure nuts after that, to the point where people I didn't even know that well at college were coming up to me with Cure cassettes they no longer wanted (because they'd got the CD versions), to help me complete the picture. I distinctly remember getting The Top and Pornography on cassette... I think I've still got them.

So slowly but surely I built up my collection and in 1995 I staged a piece of multimedia theatre at The King's Head in Islington called 'Famous Last Words' (I was a BTEC ND performing arts student for the two previous years). Not only did I get permission from Ita Marten at Fiction Records (with Robert's blessing) to use various tracks in the show, I also peppered the dialogue with variations on lines from songs on the Pornography album (rather like James O'Barr did in the Crow graphic novels). I did the show again in '96/'97 and toured it 1998 before a final London run in 2001.

Meanwhile, I'd become interested in making my own music. It was Lullaby that really turned me on to songwriting. I loved the way it seemed to have many meanings (for example, the literal man-eating spider at one of the scale, and the suffocation of an intense/obsessive relationship at the other); I loved the way the form married to the content - it sounds spidery with the big fat hairiness of the bass balanced by the dewy-web-delicate guitars. Hell, when you play the bass line, even your fingers move like the legs of a tarantula!

So now I front 'Sunflies', a band heavily influenced by The Cure, Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Muse, Joy Division and often compared to Arcade Fire and Placebo (by NME no less!).

My first Cure gig was at Wembley Arena during the Swing Tour ('96). Whilst WMS is not hailed as one of the band's best albums, I'd recently split up with my girlfriend and songs like Treasure, Jupiter Crash, This Is A Lie and Bare seemed to resonate deeply. And Want is just stunning! However, because I'd just split up with my girlfriend I had a spare ticket, which I gave to my friend Stuart. He then split up with his girlfriend and didn't feel like going, so gave the ticket to a complete stranger. Which was weird.

Anyway, the next album was of course Bloodflowers. This came out on Valentine's Day 2000, not long after my dad's 59th birthday (1st Feb), not long after he'd been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The themes of finality explored in this record again held great significance for me. I didn't listen to much else from the time it came out until the time my father died in September that year. I still give it a spin from time to time but can't help but be reminded of that very difficult year. That said, it was a year of great happiness too; I got married on 17th June and naturally The Cure featured heavily in the playlist for our celebrations. If I have one negative thing to say about Bloodflowers, it's that by today's standards the pace is rather subdued where the energy of previous material still holds up; I later read somewhere that Robert had taken a dogmatic approach and set rules like "nothing under 80bpm and nothing over 120bpm" or something like that.

However, the Bloodflowers show at Wembley Arena is probably my favourite concert of all time.
I guess the next thing that springs to mind is my slight disappointment with some of the things that followed. I've never understood the choice of Cure singles, and Cut Here from 2001's Greatest Hits is probably my least favourite song of all time - really yucky sticky keyboard line and lacklustre in almost every other respect, a bit like a New Order football song. The B-side (Signal To Noise) however, was fantastic and much more in the vein of what I would have hoped for from a Cure single at that point in time! Initially I was excited about the collaboration with Saffron, but was disappointed that she and Robert just shouted their way through 'Just Say Yes' together all the way through. Thank God for the acoustic bonus disc when it comes to getting a decent version of that song!

The Trilogy DVD is a highpoint of recent history and the B-side and rarities collection Join the Dots was a joy to acquire... There are some real gems like This Twilight Garden, Harold & Joe and The Big Hand that I'd been after for years.

Then came The Cure produced by Ross Robinson. I was really disappointed at first (except for Labyrinth). It seemed that the band's sound had changed quite significantly with the precision replaced by a forced chaos that came off as awkward. However, whilst I've always admired Robert's knack for vocal harmonies, stripped almost bare here he establishes himself as a truly wonderful vocalist, building on the enormous sustain glimpsed on Bloodflowers' Watching Me Fall and a range not previously showcased to this degree. I really wanted to like the album and with Robert setting the standard for vocals, I persevered with it, partially to sing along and develop my own voice. So over time it grew on me enormously. I don't think there are any classic Cure songs on there that I couldn't live without (whereas this is the case on previous works), but it's a good record and it earned the band the critical praise they'd been missing out on in the UK for too long.

Approaching present day, I have to say I was largely disappointed with the Festival DVD (not a great sound mix and all the fan footage makes for a poor viewer experience) and I was absolutely gutted at how bad the sound was at the Wembley Arena show on the recent/current '4 Tour'. All I could hear was kick drum and Robert's (albeit better-than-ever vocal). I moved around the auditorium desperately seeking a sweet spot where I might hear Porl's guitar or Simon's iconic basslines and get a better take on Robert's baritone guitar parts - things that really define many of the songs - but it was impossible. Perhaps it was because this was my first time standing at Wembley Arena, when I usually sit upstairs? All I know is, when A Forest failed to kick in because the bass couldn't be heard, I decided not to stay any longer. I thought some of the keyboard replacement work was clever when I could make out the guitar parts, and songs like The Walk were pleasantly surprising, but the set list was predictable and it just felt so different (and not in a good way) from all the other Cure shows I've been to.

So I'm now at a cross-roads. Has this band, that I've literally gone round praising for the last 15 years finally gone off the boil for me? Should they have ended with Bloodflowers as threatened (along with every previous record), even though I prayed at the time they'd go on to do more and more? Only the next album will tell.

Whether it's what I'm hoping for or not, I'll be satisfied as long as I can get hold of Pirate Ships (the Wendy Waldman cover) and Yesterday's Gone (the Reeves Gabrels collaboration) on CD as part of the next batch of re-issues!!

The Cure really is the soundtrack to my life. Other significant moments include losing my virginity to Mixed Up and going on a 3-day bender for my 21st birthday with The Head on the Door on repeat the WHOLE time.
(From James Scott, England)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!