Review Summary: Proof that Robert Smith can do more than sit in a corner and mope.
The Cure was always seemed to be one of the most inaccessible bands in recent history. The unrelentingly cold and bleak atmosphere induced by albums such as Disintegration
succeeded marvelously in driving away multiple listeners (myself included). Whereas other predominantly melancholy artists, like Elliott Smith and The Eels, would often have faint glimmers of hope shining amidst the desolation, such moments seemed to be incredibly rare, possibly even nonexistent, on The Cure’s classic albums. And yet, The Cure had another side to them-a side that was often hidden from casual listeners. Staring At The Sea
exposed listeners to a different Cure: one that was more optimistic, and sometimes even cheerful.
Staring At The Sea
is a compilation of all the band’s singles from 1979-1985, so there is no new material. However, the band legitimately sounds different when only the hit’s are assembled. Much of the material is upbeat, such as the groovy and pop-like The Love Cats
and the punk-eque Boys Don’t Cry
. Amidst such relatively jovial material, hits from the band’s more inhospitable albums are rather easily digestible, but still every bit as bitter and cruel. These songs are seen from a new perspective, but their poignancy is in now way decreased, and thus they do not feel abridged and commercialized.
Much of the music is in The Cure’s minimalistic goth-rock style. A driving bass riff, a simple drum beat, and a guitar riff provide a backbone, and Robert Smith sings melancholy melodies above the instruments. However, an equal portion of this album is in a more cheerful and upbeat style. In songs such as The Love Cats
, bouncy pianos, scatted vocals, keyboard leads, saxophones, and buoyant guitar and bass riffs replace the acidic minimalistic arrangements of the band’s conventional output. Both of these styles are equally represented, and the band varies their music enough to keep it constantly interesting.
It should be noted that one of the songs featured on this compilation is a rather rare track that is frequently praised by fans of the band. Charlotte Sometimes
was never released on an album, but was instead found on a single. Aside form the original single and a live version, this compilation contains the only official recording of the song. The song’s rarity is rather surprising, as it easily ranks among the band’s strongest output. Some of Smith’s most emotional singing is found here, and the melodies are nothing short of sublime. This track is reason enough for seasoned fans to look into Staring At The Sea
Starring At The Sea
aims to do one thing: provide insight into The Cure’s early years, and this it does exceptionally. Most of the band’s essential songs are included, and this compilation is much less uninviting than some of their grim and dismal albums. This is the perfect place for newcomers to begin listening to The Cure, and all seasoned fans should at the least hear the compilation in it’s entirety, if only to hear their favorite songs in a somewhat-new light.