Review Summary: The boys won’t cry when they hear this…
Before The Cure became fully fledged goths they enacted a pretty convincing portrayal of a solid, post-punk outfit - simple, chirpy rock with an eye for pop-hooks, and all. As the story goes, Robert Smith - band leader and the one constant in the group’s ever shifting line-up - had little control over what the public got to hear on ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ (their debut LP, circa 1979), and was unhappy over the slightly 'lightweight' feel to some of the tracks. Pushing for a move towards a more substantial, darker brand of alternative music, he soon managed to steer ship Cure in the direction of gothic waters, staring with the bands 2nd 'proper' LP; ‘Seventeen Seconds’, in 1980. The reason I use the term 'proper', being that, in between ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ and that record, came an odd album that was half compilation, half catch-up retrospective, entitled 'Boys Don’t Cry'.
Collecting the bands first few non-album singles, and nestling them up aside the choice cuts from ‘Three Imaginary Boys’; the record was intended to gain the band some exposure outside of their UK home turf. Truth be told, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ is probably the better of the two albums - serving as both a perfect introduction to The Cure’s early days, and a streamlined, polished version of the bands debut - buffering out a few of the less remarkable tracks and replacing them with early classics like ‘Killing an Arab’ and ‘Boys Don’t Cry’.
Speaking of the title track; it’s a genuine hit, and one of the strongest new-wave singles of its era. Short, sharp and sweet, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ encapsulates all that was great about this shorted-lived phase of The Cure, with its eternally memorable riff and Smith’s considered, personal lyrics combining to great effect. The result is the undoubted two and half minute gem in the crown of the lads early days.
The other essential track present here but absent from ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ is the dangerously named ‘Killing an Arab’. It’s false, exotic eastern-sounding riff and steady rhythm section give the track a distinctive feel, and Smith’s jabbing vocals, singing the chorus “I’m the stranger / Killing an Arab” are the icing on an already delicious cake (perhaps ‘cupcake’ would serve as a more accurate analogy, given the track’s skimpy 2.23 runtime).
The other two tracks replacing numbers like 'Meathook’ and 'Object', are less compelling, but just as enjoyable as any of the tracks they’re replacing - perhaps more so in the case of quietly brilliant 'Jumping Someone Else’s Train'. It’s no 'Boys Don’t Cry' but it’s a solid little number with a brisk, sprightly riff and a hint of the sombre, with the sad, ringing guitar weeping after the chorus.
The four 'new' tracks, two of which are essential Cure tunes ('Killing an Arab' and 'Boys Don‘t Cry'), when combined with the best material from 'Three Imaginary Boys' (such as the plodding ‘10.15 Saturday Night’ and the infectiously catchy ‘Grinding Halt’), mix together to create a package that is ultimately more satisfying than the debut album, with its trim, streamlined track-list. Shedding any of the weaker songs from the previous year’s effort, and featuring gems aplenty; 'Boys Don’t Cry' is a perfect summation of the bands loveable early phase (before Smith embarked on his gothic desires with a trail of dark albums) and serves as a perfect place for any Cure neophytes to delve into the bands work.