Ramblings on The Cure’s Relevance in 2014

Last week was a big one for The Cure. First, they announced they would release another album, another live DVD, and headline another tour. It was also the 34th anniversary of the original release of Boys Don’t Cry, the album that introduced a lot of people (myself included) to the band. The Cure is a very important band to me and alternative as a whole, so I thought I’d take a look back at what they’ve meant from Boys Don’t Cry to the recently teased 4:14 Scream.

Before we get started on the news, I’d like to talk about Boys Don’t Cry for a minute or two. While it wasn’t their debut album, it was the album that introduced a lot of people (myself included) to the band. “Boys Don’t Cry” is arguably the band’s signature song and it makes its first appearance on this compilation. And there are some that would argue that the new arrangement of the tracks on Boys Don’t Cry makes it more of a standout than their full studio debut Three Imaginary Boys. This blog takes even takes its title from a Cure lyric off of Boys Don’t Cry, “Killing an Arab”: Standing on the beach with a gun in my hand/ Staring at the sea, staring at the sand”. That line was meant to evoke only the climax of  Albert Camus’s short novel The Stranger, of which the song is meant to be a musing on. The audible “Oh Meursalt”, the name of The Stranger‘s protagonist, at the end of the song all but confirms this to be the case. But now one couldn’t help but conjure up images in their head of the war we’ve found ourselves in over the past 20 years, specifically the Gulf War and the presently innumerable conflicts arising from the September 11th attacks. Robert Smith, primary songwriter and lead singer for the band had this to say regarding the exclusion of “Killing an Arab” from The Cure’s Greatest Hits compilation in 2001:

“If there’s one thing I would change, it’s the title. I wrote it when I was still in school and I had no idea that anyone would ever listen to it other than my immediate school friends. One of the themes of the song is that everyone’s existence is pretty much the same. Everyone lives, everyone dies, our existences are the same. It’s as far from a racist song as you can write. It seems though that no one can get past the title and that’s incredibly frustrating.”

While it remains a fan favorite, I  can understand why the controversy would be enough to keep “Killing an Arab” off such a high publicity release like Greatest Hits.  Boys Don’t Cry remains affordable and still in print. The song can still be heard by those seeking it out. The fact also remains that the song was written at a time when Smith wasn’t famous and when there weren’t large scale global conflicts in the Middle East, so I believe the blame for the controversy lies squarely with those who misinterpret the song as giving the okay to anonymous violence against Arabs.

Now, back to the news of the week. The Cure has not struggled to remain relevant. 2013 saw them run what I believe was a primer tour for the next set of “Trilogy” shows. Every once in a while, since 2001, The Cure has picked three of their albums and played them back to back in their entirety. In 2002, the original set of Trilogy shows consisted of 1982’s  Pornography, 1989’s Disintegration, and 2001’s Bloodflowers. 2011 saw a tour that consisted of their first three albums, Three Imaginary Boys, Seventeen Seconds, and Faith and a reunion of sorts with original drummer Lol Tolhurst. The sets they played headlining at various U.S. festivals, including Lollapalooza, Voodoo Fest and two weekends of the Austin City Limits Music Festival leaned very heavily on the material they plan on playing in full in 2014: 1984’s The Top, 1985’s The Head on The Door, and 1986’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. The set I saw during ACL weekend two included a number of the band’s greatest hits, but contained a greater than usual number of songs from both The Top and The Head on The Door, including a rare performance of The Head on The Door-era B-Side “Stop Dead”.

The Cure during weekend two of ACL 2013.

The Cure during weekend two of ACL 2013. The set was very The Head on the Door-centric.

The end of  2013 also saw The Cure up for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but ultimately they didn’t make the final ballot. But after what they have in store for 2014, I think that this could be their year. That or the obvious, out-of-touch bloat of the Hall of Fame will become apparent with the inclusion of acts like Madonna, Hall & Oates, and Donna Summer and the exclusion of acts The Replacements and The Cure. Either way.

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