New Music Express
Johnny Cigarettes
November 1997
reproduced without permission

IN AN UNGUARDED MOMENT, MICK JAGGER ONCE admitted that there came a point in the mid-'70s ­ once the Stones had made 'Exile On Main Street', gone to Number One across the globe and made another few million touring the States ­ when it felt like they'd achieved everything they wanted. From then on, he said, they didn't have to try very hard, and subsequent albums were never that special.

It's hard to resist the conclusion that the same has happened to The Cure. 'Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me', 1987's double album, was a creative and commercial peak, an eclectic, elastic-limbed tour de force that exemplified Robert Smith's talent for writing loopy, fruity and strangely funky pop songs and dark, dizzy maelstroms of angst back-to-back, and jumping clumsily but stylishly across all points in between.

The four singles from that album open this compilation, making at least a quarter of it an enjoyable experience. 'Why Can't I Be You' and 'Just Like Heaven' were the sort of pop music guitar bands still weren't sure they were allowed to make ten years ago, while 'Catch' was unashamedly drippy, and 'Hot Hot Hot!!!' a marvellously malevolent groove.

You could tell that old Bob was getting set in his ways, though. Those pneumatically huge trainers, tight, black, indie-regulation jeans, and floppy Jim Kerr shirt were permanently welded to his body, it seemed. The smeared lipstick and bird's nest hair may have been somewhat outré back in the mid-'80s, but once it was copied by Jo Brand he really should have taken the hint and moved on.

Instead, he stayed in bed, which is where we found him in 1989 with 'Lullaby', a song about being eaten by a spider. Good attitude and that, but the first suspicions that the button marked 'goth-pop autopilot' had been pressed were already being raised by the album 'Disintegration'. Nevertheless, 'Fascination Street' was pleasingly brooding and unnerving, and 'Lovesong' was pleasant enough.

It's the next few singles that mark the decline of a great group. 'Never Enough' and 'High' would barely have scraped on to B-sides earlier in their career. Meanwhile, more songs about strawberry girls and bad dreams pleased the loyal sixth-form fanbase but no-one else. At which point, the rerelease of 'Close To Me' ('90s remix, natch) seemed a tad desperate.

The second half of this compilation (on which 'High' is included) has only one tune. That is 'Friday I'm In Love', a classic Cure pop song like the old Bob used to make. The rest is, frankly, a pale imitation of former glories. 'Letter To Elise' is turgid, moany mediocrity, while 'Strange Attraction' and 'Gone' try to be vaguely spicy and strange-sounding in a 'Kiss Me...' stylee, but comprehensively fail to engage on any level.

The nadir, however, is 'Mint Car', which sounds like someone parodying a Cure song; deliciously-piciously-lusciously piffling, and all that crap. "Never guessed it got this good/Wondered if it ever would/ Really didn't think it could/Do it all the time/I know that we should." Surely this is a cry for help?

Not that Cure fans will care; they'll just hold firm for more of the same. But considering this is a group that came out of punk, an has always professed to be an alternative to the MOR aristocracy, it might be time for them to have a long, hard look at themselves.

First five years 7/10, the second 3/10.

Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 15:00:08 CDT

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