Gothic is a word with many ways to be interpreted these days. Many people use it to describe the fat, black-clad HIM loving girl in the front of the bus, while others use it to describe 1800’s European culture and architecture. There is a happy medium though, or in this case an unhappy one. The “Goth” music boom began in the late 70’s and early 80’s, during the beginning of the end of the punk revolution. Hence synonyms for Goth music include Post-Punk. Early pioneers of the genre include current NIN tour-mates Bauhaus, the late Ian Curtis fronted Joy Division and my first review Echo and The Bunnymen. Each one of these bands pushed the Post-Punk ball slightly farther and farther but one band has pushed it father than everyone else: The Cure, known for their massive jangle pop hits like Lovesong, Friday, I’m in Love and Just Like Heaven. The Cure had humble beginnings before becoming one of the largest Alt/Indie bands in the 80’s and it all began for them with Three Imaginary Boys
The Cure today are a quite a large band keyboard players, lead guitarists and the such, in the days of Three Imaginary Boys The Cure were no more than 3 members:
And They Were
Laurence Tolhurst- Drums
Michael Dempsey- Bass
Robert Smith- Guitar/Vocals
Conspicuously absent from this lineup is the Keyboard, a staple of The Cure’s later music. Three Imaginary Boys is much different from later albums like Pornography and Wish in that the music is so simplistic. So simplistic in that it isn’t hard to imagine yourself creating the same tunes in your basement with your friends. The bass parts hold up the songs on their shoulders, simple and catchy in design, Dempsey has his moments. Unlike some other 70’s punk bands he doesn’t follow the guitar parts like a blind man follows his dog. He even gets his chance to shine with a bass solo on the punky break-up song “It’s Not You”. The drums also aren’t anything to go into a fit about; standard beats spiced up with simplistic fills set the bpm for most of the album. Coincidentally, Smith’s guitar playing is not that above average. A chorus tinged lo-fi tone is present on all but the occasional track. Guitar solos are quite rare.
So, The Cure certainly weren’t virtuosos, so why give them such a good rating? Smith’s songwriting saves the album. His lyrics are to the point, instead of beating around the bush Smith belts out lyrics like “You’re just an object in my mind”
(Object). The music is quite simple but still clever. The sound of the songs he writes is quite original too. Nowadays chorus tinged jangle pop riffs don’t seem far from the norm, but keep in mind, this album was written in the late 70’s (the band formed as a quartet in 1976) the days when most teenagers were either listening to “Blitzkrieg Bop” or “Funky Town”. As I stated before Smith (or whoever writes for The Cure) is quite the young songwriter. Title track Three Imaginary Boys
is one of the best early Cure songs, featuring the best bass on the entire album and some tasteful guitar licks the track has an overall depressing feel. At the 3:11 it is the second longest song and possibly the best, a formula that should be used on every CD. Smith’s singing makes it hard to hear the lyrics, but they are unnecessary for his voice is nearly perfect on this song. Also for all the guitar buffs this is one of the few songs to feature a solo, even if it is quite lame. While the title track is a depressing ballad type tune, one of my personal favorites Grinding Halt
is an almost pop-punk style song. The song is placed at the beginning of a streak of excellent tunes (Grinding Halt, Another Day, Object). Thumping bass lines and a standard two-four drum beat make up the beat that some of the worst lyrics on the album housed. Despite its dumbness, the song stands up for itself. Fire in Cairo
, another upbeat poppy number doesn’t suffer from this problem though. Another contender for best song on the album, Fire in Cairo is a lo-fi jangle pop love song. The way that Robert Smith sings the song itself makes me want to sing along, it doesn’t matter what he is singing. The quality of the recording is fairly terrible (along with the entire record), as is hinted to in sophomore album “Boys Don’t Cry”. While this may be annoying to some, I find it pretty cool, like it could have been recording in my basement.
The Cure’s debut isn’t without flaw though. There is, for a thirteen track album, quite a lot of filler. “Subway Song” is a nearly instrumental snore-fest, the only lyrics in it are a high shriek at the end of the song. If the inclusion of this was bad enough it is followed by the near horrible cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”. Foxy Lady itself wasn’t the best Hendrix song to begin with but The Cure’s cover makes it worse. Smith, quite the vocalist doesn’t even sing. Now I don’t hold this against The Cure, supposedly their then record label insisted the inclusion of the cover, recorded as a sound-check to bring up record sales much to the band’s distaste.
All in all, Three Imaginary Boys isn’t required listening material. Most of the better tracks were featured on their 1980 sophomore Boys Don’t Cry
so if you own that or don’t like it, I wouldn’t buy this unless you are a huge Cure fan. The music is fun, and quite good and the songs are short, nothing under 3.5 minutes. So if you have some method of downloading it and you want to hear The Cure before they were big, check this out.
Fire in Cairo
Three Imaginary Boys