Trees are an interesting metaphor for family. The closer we are to the trunk, the nearer to our origins. Branches can fork many times and new generations result.
A tree is a useful visual device for discussing pop music as well. Unlike a family tree, which quickly becomes a knot of branches with distant links to the trunk, a pop music tree’s trunk can continue to dominate the center for several generations. Consider the Cure.
The Cure was formed before many of our readers were born. Built on a mid-seventies punk rock foundation, the band found its niche when it slowed things down and let yelling fade into a whimper. Add some lipstick, a bushy black wig and smoke machines and voila, sad kids got a cult savior.
The Cure really found its sound on a couple of early albums, “Faith” and “Seventeen Seconds.” Lush synthesizers and slow, sparse digital drums met behind Robert Smith’s unique howl and slow-handed, effect-drenched guitar.
This general sonic template, exemplified by early classics like “The Funeral Party,” “Charlotte Sometimes” and the title track from “Faith,” laid the foundation on which later hits would be based.
This sound also became influential very quickly. Other English bands started adding Cure-like elements.
The album works as a whole, not something that can be said of the Cure’s other recent records. This latest outing finds the Cure in its best form since “Wish” for sure, but arguably since “Disintegration.”
Perhaps more interesting, this record feels like the Cure is reasserting its claim as an originator of goth music.
Without making any overly-specific gestures, the Cure points the musical finger at various young acts, saying “we’ve been doing this sound for years, you should show respect.”
By working with producer Ross Robinson, the band takes a stab at updating its sound without losing anything in the process. The elements that make a great Cure record great are all here.
The overall sound is somewhat louder, a bit darker than “Wish,” and more screamy than mopey on many of the tracks.
It’s good to see the Cure making great music again, and hearing brand-new Cure songs side-by-side with others by bands that wear the Cure’s influence like a badge only affirms the ability of goth’s eminence grise to survive and do it well.