Friday, February 8, 2008
Just Like Heaven The Cure
Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Out of all the bands that emerged in the immediate aftermath of punk rock in the late '70s, the Cure was one of the most enduring and popular. Led through numerous incarnations by guitarist/vocalist Robert Smith (born April 21, 1959), the band became notorious for their slow, gloomy dirges and Smith's ghoulish appearance. But the public image often hid the diversity of the Cure's music. At the outset, they played jagged, edgy pop songs and they slowly evolved into a more textured outfit. As one of the bands that laid the seeds for goth rock, the group created towering layers of guitars and synthesizers, but by the time goth caught on in the mid-'80s, the Cure had moved away from the genre. By the end of the '80s, the Cure had crossed over into the mainstream not only in their native England, but also in the United States and in various parts of Europe.
Originally called the Easy Cure, the band was formed in 1976 by schoolmates Smith (vocals, guitar), Michael Dempsey (bass), and Laurence "Lol" Tolhurst (drums). Initially, the group was playing dark, nervy guitar pop with pseudo-literary lyrics, as evidenced by the Albert Camus-inspired "Killing an Arab." A demo tape, featuring "Killing an Arab," arrived in the hands of Chris Parry, an A&R representative at Polydor Records; by the time he received the tape, the band's name had been truncated to the Cure. Parry was impressed with the song and arranged for its release on the independent label Small Wonder in December 1978. Early in 1979, Parry left Polydor to form his own record label, Fiction, and the Cure was one of the first bands he signed to the label. "Killing an Arab" was re-released in February of 1979, and the Cure set out on their first tour of England. The Cure's debut album, Three Imaginary Boys, was released in May 1979 to good reviews in the British music press. Later that year, the group released the non-LP singles "Boys Don't Cry" and "Jumping Someone Else's Train." That same year, the Cure embarked on a major tour with Siouxsie and the Banshees. During the tour, the Banshees' guitarist, John McKay, left the group and Smith stepped in for the missing musician; for the next decade or so, Smith would frequently collaborate with members of the Banshees.
At the end of 1979, the Cure released a single, "I'm a Cult Hero," under the name the Cult Heroes. Following the release of the single, Dempsey left the band to join the Associates. Dempsey was replaced by Simon Gallup at the beginning of 1980. At the same time, the Cure added a keyboardist, Mathieu Hartley, to their lineup. The band's second album, Seventeen Seconds, was released in the spring of 1980. The addition of a keyboardist expanded the group's sound; it was now more experimental, and frequently they would immerse themselves in slow, gloomy dirges. Nevertheless, the band still wrote pop hooks, as demonstrated by the group's first U.K. hit single, "A Forest," which peaked at number 31. After the release of Seventeen Seconds, the Cure began their first world tour. Following the Australian leg of the tour, Hartley left the band and the group chose to continue without him. In 1981, they released their third album, Faith, which peaked at number 14 in the charts and spawned the minor hit single "Primary." The Cure's fourth album, the doom-laden, introspective Pornography, was released in 1982. Pornography expanded their cult audience even further and it cracked the U.K. Top Ten. After the Pornography tour was completed, Gallup quit the band and Tolhurst moved from drums to keyboards. At the end of 1982, the Cure released a new single, the dance-tinged "Let's Go to Bed."
Smith devoted most of the beginning of 1983 to Siouxsie and the Banshees, recording the Hyaena album with the group and appearing as the band's guitarist on the album's accompanying tour. Smith also formed a band with Banshees bassist Steve Severin called the Glove that same year. The Glove released their only album, Blue Sunshine, later in 1983. By the late summer of 1983, a new version of the Cure -- featuring Smith, Tolhurst, drummer Andy Anderson, and bassist Phil Thornalley -- was assembled and they recorded a new single, the jaunty "The Lovecats." The song was released in the fall of 1983 and became the group's biggest hit to date, peaking at number seven on the U.K. charts. The new lineup of the Cure released The Top in 1984. Despite the pop leanings the number 14 hit "The Caterpillar," The Top was a return to the bleak soundscapes of Pornography. During the world tour supporting The Top, Anderson was fired from the band. In early 1985, following the completion of the tour, Thornalley left the band. The Cure revamped their lineup after his departure, adding drummer Boris Williams and guitarist Porl Thompson; Gallup returned on bass. Later in 1985, the Cure released their sixth album, The Head on the Door. The album was the most concise and pop-oriented record the group had ever released, which helped send it into the U.K. Top Ten and to number 59 in the U.S., the first time the band had broken the American Hot 100. "In Between Days" and "Close to Me" -- both pulled from The Head on the Door -- became sizable U.K. hits, as well as popular underground and college radio hits in the U.S.
The Cure followed the breakthrough success of The Head on the Door in 1986 with the compilation Standing on a Beach: The Singles. Standing on a Beach reached number four in the U.K., but more importantly it established the band as a major cult act in the U.S.; the album peaked at number 48 and went gold within a year. In short, Standing on a Beach set the stage for 1987's double album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. The album was eclectic but it was a hit, spawning four hit singles in the U.K. ("Why Can't I Be You," "Catch," "Just Like Heaven," "Hot Hot Hot!!!") and the group's first American Top 40 hit, "Just Like Heaven." Following the supporting tour for Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, the Cure's activity slowed to a halt. Before the Cure began working on their new album in early 1988, the band fired Tolhurst, claiming that relations between him and the rest of the band had been irrevocably damaged. Tolhurst would soon file a lawsuit, claiming that his role in the band was greater than stated in his contract and, consequently, he deserved more money.
In the meantime, the Cure replaced Tolhurst with former Psychedelic Furs keyboardist Roger O'Donnell and recorded their eighth album, Disintegration. Released in the spring of 1989, the album was more melancholy than its predecessor, but it was an immediate hit, reaching number three in the U.K. and number 14 in the U.S., and spawning a series of hit singles. "Lullaby" became the group's biggest British hit in the spring of 1989, peaking at number five. In the late summer, the band had their biggest American hit with "Love Song," which climbed to number two. On the Disintegration tour, the Cure began playing stadiums across the U.S. and the U.K. In the fall of 1990, the Cure released Mixed Up, a collection of remixes featuring a new single, "Never Enough." Following the Disintegration tour, O'Donnell left the band and the Cure replaced him with their roadie, Perry Bamonte. In the spring of 1992, the band released Wish. Like Disintegration, Wish was an immediate hit, entering the British charts at number one and the American charts at number two, as well as launching the hit singles "High" and "Friday I'm in Love." The Cure embarked on another international tour after the release of Wish. One concert, performed in Detroit, was documented on a film called Show and on two albums, Show and Paris. The movie and the albums were released in 1993.
Thompson left the band in 1993 to join Jimmy Page and Robert Plant's band. After his departure, O'Donnell rejoined the band as a keyboardist, and Bamonte switched from synthesizers to guitars. During most of 1993 and early 1994, the Cure was sidelined by the then-ongoing lawsuit from Tolhurst. Following the settlement in the band's favor in the fall of 1994, the group was set to record a follow-up album to Wish, but drummer Boris Williams quit just as they were about to begin the record. The Cure recruited a new drummer through advertisements in the British music papers; by the spring of 1995, Jason Cooper had replaced Williams. Throughout 1995, the Cure recorded their tenth proper studio album, pausing to perform a handful of European musical festivals in the summer. The album, titled Wild Mood Swings, was finally released in the spring of 1996. A second singles collection, 1997's Galore, yielded the new "Wrong Number," and the original album Bloodflowers followed in early 2000. An all-encompassing Cure retrospective entitled Greatest Hits, which included two brand-new songs, was issued in fall 2001. The band returned with another original album, self-titled, in 2004. Prior to commencing work on a follow-up in 2006, Bamonte and O'Donnell departed, only to leave room for Thompson's third stint.