Friday night at Reading 2012, an old band will take to the stage and rock out. For the vast majority of people I’ve spoken to, the announcement of The Cure as friday headliners has elicited a sympathtetic smile at best, and a nonchalent ‘meh’ in most cases.
What is it about The Cure that produces such intense fanaticism in the fans (here of course I mean me), and such indifference in everyone else. For most bands, there’ll be people with opinions, rants for good and bad, and at least a vague notion of who the band is – sound and style. The Cure are different, they have almost no haters, and yet most people couldn’t really say what style of music they play or what sort of things they sing about, at a stretch they might know that ‘the singer wears make-up’.
So why have I never met anyone who actively dislikes them? Probably because most folks will have only heard a few songs, those being the most successful ones, and in the case of The Cure, the most masterfully poppy songs ever made. Seriously, The Cure have an ear for pop like no one since The Beatles. It never sounds fake, like most pop stuff, but it always makes you feel good and gets you singing along. Here’s an example.
How can you not like a song like that.
But here is where things get interesting, because The Cure are far from being a pop act. They arose out of the post-punk scene, and along with bands like Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees, they helped invent ‘Gothic music’. In many ways they inherited the reverb-filled, gloomy, driving drums sound of Joy Division just as Ian Curtis died and The Cure began their ‘Gothic Trio’ of albums: Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography. These are not things you would associate with a pop band. Thier songs fluctuate from rocking post-punk to dark, deep, drowning 6-minute ultra-depressing epics to perfect happy pop songs about cats in love. if you thought that was a joke, then you need to hear this next song. Not only is it hilariously happy, but its also my favourite Cure song ever.
This is the crucial reason why their fans are so keen. If you take the sunday headliner of Reading 2012, Foo Fighters, you know you are gonna get massive anthems that you can rock out too and sing along to. That’s what the Foos are all about. Or if you take the Bestival headliners, Sigur Ros, you know you’ll get deep atmospheric songs, but you’re fucked if you want to sing along or just have a cheery pop song, and vice versa with the Foos songs.
The Cure are the perfect fusion. You have the songs that you can completely lose yourself in the intense emotion of, like a good Bon Iver or Sparklehorse song, and you have the hits, the perfectly built pop songs like a Vaccines, Shins, Oasis or Arctic Monkeys tune.
And don’t think that I just mean a pace change, don’t think I’m saying most bands can’t do ballads if they do anthems, because almost all albums ever made will have a mix of slow and fast. What The Cure do so well is making music that can be ultra pop and commercial, that can grab you straight away, and then make music that seems the polar opposite, music that will stop you in your tracks and make you listen with absurd intensity, music that can drown you completely.
There are very few bands that can lay claim to this ability, and even fewer that can pull it off in any way whatsoever*. You can see proof of this success in their sheer endurance, they were a band formed in the late seventies, and without breaking up and having a big reunion, they are headlining England’s premier rock festival this year.
This is why the Cure are the perfect band. And here is a song that I think perfectly demonstrates their perfect fusion:
*bands that I think can also pull off The Cure’s duality are: Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Blur, Pearl Jam, and R.E.M. Notice something about that list, yeah, it’s all awesome.