Tag Archives: oasis

Why The Cure are the perfect band

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.

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The 5 songs you should NEVER cover

Rainmaker here… Being in a band, and a killer procrastinator, I have seen a lot of covers. Some of them good, some of them incredible. But some of them are terrible (that last one leads the abomination that is Leona Lewis killing Johnny Cash (and NIN)). There are some songs that no matter how well you play them, or how well you re-invent them, you just cannot cover. Here are these songs.

5 – Wonderwall

It may be he first song anyone ever learns on guitar, but it is the last song you want to play in front of people. Why? Because you will get bottled stoned or egged off the stage. This song is a classic, an anthem, and there is no one alive who hasn’t heard it. Also this song sucks. Yes, I just said that. If you remove the actual song from the crazy magic that happened when the Gallagher Bros. sat down and forged pure awesome from the same 4 chords being repeated in varying ways for 3 and a half minutes… then you get a bad song. The words are avs. at best and musically it’s samey. This means that when you try and play it, you take all the magic out of it, and then, inevitably, add nothing. Here is arch-mediocrity (how’s that for an obscure 19th century british politics reference? Can I get a Tamworth Manifestooooooo?), Ed Sheeran proving that this song is just plain boring.

4 – Hallelujah

This is an oddity: the reason you cannot cover this song is because it has already been covered too well. Its a good song, written by Leonard Cohen but the iconic cover is the one that was done by God himself, Jeff Buckley. The sheer amount of emotion he puts into mean that this is one of those songs that just makes everyone listening shut the fuck up. It was a wicked reinterpreting, and completely fairly gained him a tonne of fame. But this means that a lot of people who don’t know the rest of his music heard it, and thought they would also play it because thats fine. [spoiler=it isn’t] Those covering it go two ways, 1st, the do-it-the-same way. This is a very boring and pointless thing to do. There’s no reason to listen because doing it like Jeff will never be anywhere near as good as Jeff. The 2nd way is to reinvent it. This is even worse than the same way. Seems harsh. Two words – Alexandra Burke. Check it:

3 – Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)

Quick question – Who’s the greatest guitarist in the history of music? That’s right, Jimi Hendrix. Dude’s a wizard. Name a song of his? Yeh I know I already put it in the subheading but this is probably one of the top 5 guitar songs in the history of ever. Also, he was playing that riff and singing at the same time! It’s what you show people when you want them to understand why the guitar is awesome, and why Hendrix is awesome. If you cover this, chances are you’re going to play that riff. Why, God, why would anyone try and play that riff. It cannot be topped, ever.  Any other version of this song just reminds you that the original is awesome and so much better than whoever’s playing it. Even this somewhat decent cover proves that:

2 – Stairway to Heaven

This only narrowly misses out on the number one spot. This is the greatest song of all time. This should not need much explanation. The best song of all time cannot be played ‘better’. This song has been covered well before, by Rodrigo y Gabriela. That version was the exception that proved the rule. It was not better than the original, merely an interesting way to listen to it. I once saw a band play this live. They played it faultlessly and it was a hell of a performance. It made me want to murder them. This is the greatest song of all time. The Golden Rule of Rock – Do Not Cover Stairway to Heaven.

1 – Smells Like Teen Spirit

Two warnings: 1, If you watch the video at the end of this, you may want to burn your entire record collection in outrage; 2, This one will be long.

In 1991 a band called Nirvana changed music forever. This is an objective fact, and i don’t know a teenager anywhere who couldn’t identify this song in 3 seconds or less. There are few songs with an impact as large as this, and the only other one that springs to mind is directly above you now. This song is everything that is good about pop, rock, metal and punk fused in to one bursting song. Teenage angst, rebellion, just fucking rocking out are all epitomised in this song. And we’ve been wrong about it the whole time. It’s a joke.

Comedians love to take the piss out of that fact that no one knows what the lyrics are. You’re not supposed to. They are intentionally stupid. Kurt Cobain wrote this song as a joke. It is designed to be the anti-anthem. When he first played it to the band they all laughed about how stupid it was. Then he made them play it for an hour and a half because it was so funny. Even the title is stupid. Kathleen Hanna, Kurt’s friend and awesome frontwoman of harcore feminist riot-grrrl grunge band Bikini Kill, sprayed it on Kurt’s wall. ‘Teen Spirit’ was an averagely popular deoderant brand, and the one used by the girl Kurt was chasing at the time. He adopted it for the title of a song that in his own words was ‘just making fun of the thought of having a revolution’. It mocks the idea that Teen Spirit is a revolutionary force, rather than just a product to be bought and sold. Remember that – It’ll be useful when you watch the video below.

Anyone who even thinks of covering it, is indubitably going to play it as if it is the anthem of teen revolution that Kurt was taking the piss out of. Not only is this song one of the greatest of all time, but the very act of covering it as you think it is, is going against the very essence of the song. And now I will kill your souls.

It was the great misfortune of mine to stumble upon a video recently. This video has the potential to scar you for life, it makes grown men weep in like babies. It makes music nerds burn their vinyl copies of Led Zeppelin IV. It is a video of a manufactured pop sensation covering the greatest anti-anthem ever written and ever played. I’m sorry.

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