Just Like Heaven: The Cure and their turbulent rise to new-wave stardom

As far as I see it, there isn’t a more underrated band in the history of the music business for what they have accomplished in their time and the sound they created, The Cure really were trendsetters in every sense of the word, both sonically and aesthetically.

The Cure were formed in 1976 in Crawley, West Sussex and their journey to stardom certainly wasn’t an easy ride. Member shake-ups were frequent and only one man has stood tall from the very start to the very end of The Cure’s lifespan; the eclectic and majestic frontman Robert Smith, whose fairly basic name bared absolutely no correlation to quite how bonkers of a character he was. Dawning in an era that seemed utterly confused as to what avenue it wanted to go down after the falling of The Beatles and the inconsistencies of The Rolling Stones, The Cure were already up against it to find a sound which would fit in an industry which had variety coming out of it’s eyeballs. The early-to-mid 70s saw Earth, Wind & Fire bringing the funk and David Bowie ruling the roost with his triumphant ‘Hunky Dory’ and ‘The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust’ albums, so Smith knew where his influences could lie but was also aware that it would take time.

The band’s debut album was released in 1979 under the title Three Imaginary Boys but has since been changed to Boys Don’t Cry, pretty much summing up the bizarre backstage antics of the group and their rifting management as Smith himself voiced his displeasure at the album’s sound, mainly because the record label decided which songs would be released and the controversial single “Killing An Arab” has since been swept under the carpet. This would be the first and last time Smith did not have entire control over the band’s releases. Despite blatant displeasure from Smith, the album was actually received very well critically, with many publications enjoying the varied and compelling sound the band created, a level of intrigue and promise which is rarely shown from a debut album.

The direction taken on the second album Seventeen Seconds is nothing short of bonkers as they moved into an avenue of gothic rock and post punk with huge success, gaining critical acclaim and a legacy which has seen this album viewed as one of the true greats of it’s time. The lead and only single “A Forest” is a mesmerising track which I would quite comfortably label as one of the band’s best songs ever and the album followed suit from that, despite it spelling the end of Michael Dempsey after the last of many arguments with Smith. This album was followed a year later by Faith which further enhanced the dark neo-gothic sound of the previous album and even tipped Smith over the edge of indulged persona that he would break down in tears during live shows. Something had to give as the early magic was appearing to show cracks..

The band had an epiphany in 1982, after crunch meetings with manager Chris Parry they decided to completely reinvent the Cure sound, much to the relief of Robert Smith who had wanted to scrap the band entirely. This change in style worked an absolute treat, hits such as “Let’s Go To Bed”, “The Walk” and “The Lovecats” suddenly moved The Cure from this niche sounding gothic rock outfit to a commercially viable alt-rock band. These singles were put into a compilation B-sides album called Japanese Whispers and they then released The Top as their next album in 1984, an album which peaked inside the top 10 of the album charts for the first time in the band’s career. The band were praised for their ambition and daring attitudes to approach a psychedelic atmosphere and despite some criticisms, it is often seen as great work to this day.

1985’s The Head On The Door album was a heroic release for the band and a real coming-of-age moment for them, donning great singles and a wonderfully cool sound from the equally as cool frontman Smith. The single “Close To Me” is an instantly recognisable hit for people of all generations and has been sampled numerous times but nothing quite tops the original flavour and the feel-good nature it had. Publication ‘Melody Maker’ made the album it’s album of the year, but the best was still yet to come. In 1987 The Cure returned with undeniably their best release ever, the critically acclaimed worldwide commercial masterpiece Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Boasting four phenomenal singles, including one of their biggest ever hits in “Just Like Heaven” it was the moment everyone knew The Cure had in them, the album where it all came together from start to finish in this funky sound of theirs. Their first Platinum album, it signalled what many fans already knew and that was that The Cure were true icons of their time.

Disintegration became the band’s eighth album in 1989 and was just as good as their previous two works, showing a momentum chain that hardly any band could replicate as they bounced from masterful body of work to masterful body of work so effortlessly. This album was a bit more daring than the other two and entered a world of dream pop which the world had very sparsely witnessed before, it is a genre we now know and love and bands such as The Cure and My Bloody Valentine can be thanked for that. Tracks such as “Fasciantion Street” and “Lullaby” showed the bizarre attitude of the band in a perfect light with psych-rock guitar riffs and gorgeous futuristic production. It is The Cure’s highest selling album to date and easily their most accessible.

The run continued in 1992 with the band bringing out Wish, an album often recognised as ‘the one with Friday I’m In Love on it’. I feel that is a large disservice to the album as a whole as it was Grammy nominated for Best Alternative Album and it became their first ever UK Number One album, so it can’t be labelled simply as a one-single wonder. It can also be seen as the band’s last truly phenomenal venture before taking somewhat of a backseat with their albums and releasing when they felt like it. Wild Mood Swings and Bloodflowers were released before the Greatest hits album came out in 2001 and both are good projects, but there was an overwhelming feel that their work had been done. Since then we have had an eponymous album in 2004 and one more release in 2008 before they called time on their remarkable career.

The Cure have been credited as influences for just about every single indie-rock outfit in the late 90s and early 00s, including the likes of Blur and Radiohead which says all you need to know about their undying influence on the music industry. Not everyone may see it as obviously as others but as far as I see it, there isn’t a more underrated band in the history of the music business for what they have accomplished in their time and the sound they created, The Cure really were trendsetters in every sense of the word, both sonically and aesthetically. Robert Smith himself was a tricky character and often a misunderstood one, but his genius knew no bounds and he is unquestionably one of the greatest frontmen this country has ever produced. If you haven’t listened to The Cure as much as you feel you should have, then please do, they have a discography for the ages and in my opinion, go down as one of the all time greats of British music, on par with the likes of The Beatles, The Smiths and The Stones.

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