Sure Cure;This time around,they admit they're big,really
by Tom Popson (Chicago Tribune-8/27/89)
Most people might look at the Cure,a British band that has sold a few
million albums and now plays to throngs in stadiums and large arenas,and
say this is undeniably a successful,big-time outfit.
Robert Smith,the Cure's vocalist,songwriter and guitarist-and a man who
perhaps is not typical of most people-still doesn't see it that way,however.
Even after tasting considerable success in recent years,Smith appears
constitutionally incapable of regarding his band as a big deal.
It was just about two years ago that Smith and the Cure completed the
transition in this country from cult-favorite status to mass acceptance.
After years of minimal airplay here,the British band saw its 1986 album
"Standing on a Beach," a retrospective collection of singles,earn a gold
record in the States.A followup album in 1987,"Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me,"
ultimately went platinum here,and a U. S. tour that year found the band
booked almost exclusively into cow-palace-size venues.
Nevertheless,Smith maintained at the time that the band would never reach
"huge proportions." "The popularity of the group has actually gone beyond
what I imagined it would," he remarked in a 1987 conversation.
Now,two years later,the members of the Cure are back in the States for
another tour-which brings them to the Rosemont Horizon Thursday and Friday
-and the band's popularity shows no signs of slipping.The Cure's current
album, "Disintegration," reached No. 12 on the Billboard chart,and Smith
himself says that even though the band will be playing fewer American dates
than it did in 1987,it probably will wind up playing to twice as many
people.The Cure's opening tour date at Giants Stadium in New Jersey drew,
by one estimate,more than 50,000 people.
So does Smith still maintain the Cure will never be "huge"?
"It is a bit difficult," says Smith with a laugh."I was assured by a lot
of people that the 'Disintegration' album would mark our decline once
people heard its content.Because of it being so sort of downbeat.But it
seems to have had the opposite effect.In the reaction we've gotten by mail
from America,people seem to like it more than the 'Kiss Me' album.
"So I don't know.There's not really much we can do about it.I'm really
pleased that people want to see us.But I still don't think of us as a big
group.I don't suppose I ever will.I mean,things are still done the same
way.We're just playing to a lot of people because they want to see us play.
To me,it's a very basic equation.It doesn't step into the realm of our
popularity versus someone else's.We're just a choice,and people have
decided to make that choice.
"If the demand weren't there from people to see us play,we wouldn't be
coming (to the States).A lot of groups try to drum up enthusiasm and
support by playing live concerts.With us,it's really tended to be the other
way around:We always play reluctantly."
Indeed,Smith reportedly has said in recent days that this tour could be
the last time the band plays live.But at least one person who knows Smith
well dismisses the "farewell" talk,pointing out that Smith said much the
same thing after the band's 1987 tour.If the Cure plays reluctantly,it is
also back these days-on the " Disintegration" LP,at least-to playing
darkly.Perhaps the Cure's best album, "Disintegration" is rich in moody,
atmospheric,elegant numbers,displaying a kind of gloomy-but-grand sound
tailor-made for Smith's downbeat,sometimes desolate lyrics about love and
relationships. "You shatter me/Your grip on me/A hold on me/So dull it
kills" sings Smith in the not-atypical song "Prayers for Rain."
In a way,the album is a return to the Cure of the early '80s,when the band
released bleak singles such as "Charlotte Sometimes" and the intense,
slightly mad album "Pornography." This time around,though,there is a
stateliness not evident earlier and a more fully accomplished mingling of
pop and "atmospheric" elements within songs.
"It was weird with 'Disintegration,'" says Smith. "We actually had more
stuff than we did for the 'Kiss Me' double-album.We could quite easily
have done a triple-album.But it could have become almost unlistenable,
really:Some of the stuff we didn't put on the album was very 'noisy,' just
like slabs of noise.
"Or we could have done what we were originally going to do with the
'Kiss Me' album:have a double-album made up of a pop record and an
atmospheric record.In the end,what happened was the pop songs absorbed
some of the more atmospheric elements of the slow songs,and the slow songs
got a bit more tuneful.Looking back,I'm glad it turned out like it did.It's
more coherent this way."
Over the course of the band's 10-year career,which has seen more than a
few personnel changes,the Cure has given listeners a few surprises.After
releasing some pop-oriented singles in 1979,for example,the band entered
a darker phase in the early '80s-then late in 1982 abruptly changed course
to record the techno-dance single "Let's Go to Bed." And now,in the middle
of all the drear content on "Disintegration," there is a tender little
number titled "Lovesong," a straightforward,heartfelt expression of
devotion that stands in contrast to its surroundings.
"That one song,I think,hinges the whole 'Disintegration' album and makes
many people think twice," says Smith. "If that song wasn't on the record,it
would be very easy to dismiss the album as having a certain mood.But
throwing that one in sort of upsets people a bit because they think, 'This
"It's taken me 10 years to reach the point where I feel comfortable singing
a very straightforward love song.In the past,I've always felt a last-minute
need to disguise the sentiments or put a twist on them.It's actually one of
the most difficult songs I've had to sing.
"It's an open show of emotion.It's not trying to be clever.And it's
difficult to do because you run the risk of being laughed at.I realized
that while we were recording it."
The song,says Smith,was a "wedding present" to his wife,Mary,whom he
married last year.The pair first met as teenagers and,says Smith,had been
living together some 10 years before they married.
"We'd known each other so many years," says Smith, "that we decided that
when we'd known each other longer than we hadn't known each other,we'd get
married.It took 15 years."
Married life,Smith reports,is "exactly the same" as his life earlier.There
will not,he adds,be any little Smithlets running around London in the near
future: "No,I don't think I'm cut out for fatherhood at the moment-and I'm
lucky in that Mary doesn't think she's cut out for motherhood at the moment,
Some of those who have heard Smith's song "Lullaby" might say it's just as
well he has chosen not to have children.The one other song on
"Disintegration" that comes fairly close to being a straight-out pop tune,
"Lullaby" is a little nightmare about being devoured by a spidery creature
that has crept into the bedroom.
"That's the sort of lullaby my Dad used to sing when I was younger," says
Smith,laughing again. "He used to make them up.There was always a horrible
ending.There would be something like 'Sleep now,pretty baby,' and then
there'd be an 'Or you won't wake up at all' coda to the song."
For the band's current tour of the States,says Smith,the Cure is using a
set beginning and end for its show,but can adapt the middle to a particular
crowd,drawing on a pool of 55 songs the band has rehearsed.Even in
airplane-hangar venues,Smith says,the band still feels a connection with
the audience and can sense what's working and what isn't.
"I imagined it would be difficult,but actually we seem to pull it off,"
says Smith. "It may be that we're still very natural onstage and there's no
showmanship,which draws the audience in.People are sometimes critical that
not much goes on,but you have to become so grotesquely flamboyant to be
seen at the back of those sorts of places that it's actually pointless
trying. "By adapting the set to draw people in,by playing certain songs at
certain times,you can create an environment where the slow stuff
particularly can work really well.Most groups try to adapt to their
environment in these bigger venues.We try to adapt the environment to us.
I don't think anyone's tried as hard as us to make it intimate,really."