Japanese Whispers was an album that went mostly unnoticed. Its distribution used to be fairly limited (you had to import it if you lived in the states) and it never broke any charts. To clear up any confusion, this release is merely a compilation of EP singles and B-sides ‘82 and ‘83. These songs never appeared on any main albums, so basically all the songs are one-off singles of the Pornography sessions. A rather strange collection from that era, as it was more of a precursor to The Top if anything, but still sounded nothing like anything they would release.
The compilation sees The Cure dabbling in the synthesizer driven, new wave movement of the early 80’s. Songs like The Dream, The Upstairs Room, and The Walk illustrate this with their machine-like drum beats and “dark” 80’s movie soundtrack feel. The Walk, the most popular of those three, was, according to Robert Smith, the only song he wrote that his mom liked at that point; this is probably due to the part in the song where Smith shouts “I saw you look like a Japanese baby!” but that’s peer speculation.
Along with the new wave interest, Smith and Lol Tolhurst developed a short lived interest in jazz. Speak My Language and The Lovecats are extremely flashy in that sense. Speak My Language is a poppy piano driven track with a mid tempo triplet jazz rhythm with windy guitar effects, but no one knows what the hell Smith is singing about. His lyrics are totally off the wall on all these songs in fact. The Lovecats is one of their best singles, though. It’s walking bass line, piano pulses, and crescendo of the brass section throughout the song makes it extremely enjoyable, plus the drum and happy, high guitar rhythms slightly reminiscent of The Stray Cats make this one of those tracks you wish you could dance to. Once the song starts to kicks in, it’s one of the most infectious moments of The Cure’s entire career.
The Cure has begun their experimentation that they would perfect on The Head On The Door, naturally with a few dull moments (The Dream, Just One Kiss). This isn’t essential listening by any means, but merely another thing you may be interested in if you want to learn more about the band’s development. Still, it serves its purpose as being a more or less enjoyable listen at just under a half hour, and you can’t go wrong with a few jazzy moments in your day, can you?