The Cure vs. Ride

Robert Smith - the cure

It’s now 25 years since Ride released their debut album, Nowhere. To these ears, the shoegazing legends were at their finest on their debut album, and their first four EPs.

November 6 will see the album re-issued, and Robert Smith of The Cure has remixed the album’s closing track ‘Vapour Trail.’ Although it’s not on the forthcoming re-issue, it can be downloaded as a two-track single via iTunes. There are two versions – a longer version that comes in at nearly seven and a half minutes…

…and a shorter one at five minutes.

Robert Smith and The Cure have been busy of late. Whilst rumours of a sequel to 4:13 Dream continue to circulate, the band have announced they will tour the US in 2016 (see their website for details). Support comes from 17 Seconds favourites The Twilight Sad, who earlier this year featured Robert Smith’s cover of their song ‘There’s A Girl In The Corner’ as the b-side to their single ‘It Never Was The Same.’ You can hear that here.

And if anyone doubted The Cure’s legacy, it’s telling that in recent months, both Natalie Imbruglia (on her album Male) and Yo La Tengo (on their album Stuff Like That There) have covered ‘Friday I’m In Love.’ You can hear them by clicking on the links. Maybe I should do a post dedicated to cover versions of The Cure…

* note: the original release of the album on cassette and LP had ‘Vapour Trail’ as the closing track. The CD added three tracks from the Fall EP, the lead track on the EP being ‘Dreams Burn Down’ which was on the album. Just to add to the confusion, some versions of the album on CD also add all four tracks of the subsequent Today Forever EP. However, as far as I am concerned, the original album is eight tracks long, and closes with ‘Vapour Trail.’

The Cure vs. Twilight Sad

Robert Smith - the cure

Given that this blog takes its’ name from The Cure’s second album, it should come as no surprise that the opportunity to post Cure-related news is something I seize with delight. And when it involves another act that I have long championed on here, so much the better!

Last year, the Twilight Sad released their fourth album Nobody Wants To Be Here, And Nobody Wants To Leave. Now, for their next single from the album, ‘It Never Was The Same’ The Cure’s Robert Smith has recorded his version of the album’s ‘There’s A Girl In The Corner’ track to be the b-side. It’s utterly fabulous. and it’s out on June 15.

…and just in case you haven’t heard the original version, here it is:

You can pre-order the 7″ single here

The return of The Cure!

At some point this year, The Cure (my all-time favourite band, and whose second album gives this blog its name) will release their fourteenth album 4:14 Scream.

In the meantime, this video is doing the rounds of them covering The Beatles ‘Hello Goodbye’ for a forthcoming tribute album to Paul McCartney entitled The Art of McCartney (and the tracklisting for that can be found here). It’s a faithful cover, featuring James McCartney on keyboards and yet it is unmistakeably The Cure.

The bonus disc features Robert Smith covering ‘C Moon’ though I’ve yet to find any evidence of that on the web, apart from a listing…

Bizarre Music Show Performances #3

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Top Of The Pops (but of course), 1980.

The Cure will go on to be one of the defining bands of the decade and will appear on the show on many more occasions. ‘A Forest’ was their first Top 40 UK hit, taken from their second album Seventeen Seconds (yes, well done, etc..)

However, given the fact that the performance lasts less than three minutes, and that a young Robert Smith (slim, with very short hair and no make-up) looks less than enamoured to be there (and isn’t remotely even pretending to mime), it’s amazing either side wanted to repeat it after this:

Does there have to be a reason?

Feeling a little more human today. However, the wee man has been very fractious of late, so the blog has been on the backburner a bit. There are interviews from Dweezil Zappa and We Were Promised Jetpacks to be published very shortly.

But it’s my birthday tomorrow so some gothic pleasures for now…

Patricia Morrison really had a je ne sais quoi when I was eleven years old.

Born in the Seventies…

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Driving into work this morning, there was a discussion on the local radio about which decade would you most have liked to have lived through.

The fifties were winning -but more to do with people’s perception of fifties America which has been shaped by Grease and Back To The Future, apparently; and absolutely sod all to do with living in a Britain where rationing was still in place, and austerity was the name of the game (don’t laugh folks, cos all cliches turn full circle).

I on the other hand, rang in -and got to hear my dulcet tones on air (apparently I sound much more scottish on air than in real life, according to my friend Keith who heard me) -and said the seventies.

Now, I’m well aware that the seventies had their downsides – and I don’t mean fashion either – but for music it would have been awesome.

Well, not Tony Orlando and Dawn or Peters and Lee or Demis Roussos (like duh) but this would have been awesome to see.

Sex Pistols -‘Anarchy In The UK.’ mp3

Althea and Donna -‘Uptown Top Ranking.’ mp3

Dead Kennedys -‘California Uber Alles.’ mp3

Bob Marley -‘Waiting In Vain.’ mp3

Chic -‘Good Times.’ mp3

Slits -‘Typical Girls.’ mp3

Cure -’10:15 Saturday Night.’ mp3

Clash -‘Complete Control.’ mp3

Cramps -‘Human Fly.’ mp3

Television -‘Marquee Moon.’ mp3

Mind you, there’s younger folk who are envious of me seeing Radiohead and Pulp at Glastonbury in the nineties, and Jeff Buckley…

Album Review – The Cure

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The Cure – ‘Disintegration (re-issue)’ (Fiction)

How do you write objectively about an album by your favourite band ever, that’s your second favourite album ever, that you feel is pretty bloody amazing? Well, yes, this is going to be a rave review, so if you don’t care for the band and/or the album, this is not going to change your mind. But given that this week the no.1 album in the UK is the re-issued Exile On Main Street from the Rolling Stones, re-issues seem to be making the news.

But dammit, this is how a re-issue ought to be put together. Having fallen from favour in the nineties, The Cure reached a new stage in the last decade where acts as diverse as Mogwai, Razorlight and The Rapture declared them an influence, where they were seen as godfathers of post-punk and continued to record new albums. Granted, these tend to be about four years apart (and I would love to see them play Scotland again!), but given that Robert Smith is now fifty-one, slack should be cut.

This was the Cure’s eighth album back in 1989 (it’s ironic that at around £12 for a triple CD that’s quite possibly what many people would have paid for a copy of the album on CD then, and conceivably more) and many have considered it to be The Cure’s finest. In time Smith has considered it to be part of a trilogy with 1982’s Pornography and 2000’s Bloodflowers. (When I heard the latter on its’ release ten years ago, I really assumed that was their grand finale, and I’m delighted that’s not proved to be the case). It was a commercial and critical success and provided the band with their highest charting singles so far -‘Lullaby’ reaching no.5 in the UK, and ‘Lovesong’ reaching no.2 in the US.

Yes, it’s dark in many places, but it’s epic and sublime. Bizarrely, given that the original version omitted two tracks on the vinyl ‘Last Dance’ and ‘Homesick’ it’s one of the very few albums I would prefer to have on CD than vinyl (though I own both, surprise, surprise). What the re-issue has is not only the original album remastered, but a CD of genuine rarities (not b-sides but never before released versions of tracks and demos of the b-sides) and a third CD, entitled Entreat Plus. Entreat was originally an eight track album of live performances at Wembley Arena in the summer of 1989 on the Prayer tour which accompanied the release of the album. This has now been expanded to feature all twelve album tracks from the album in order.

Is this obssessive? Well, maybe, but the fact is that the deluxe editions are genuinely produced for those who consider themselves fans rather than someone who’s just buying the album because they like one or two tracks from it (and in this age of iTunes etc.. that’s got to be becoming a progressively rarer occurence). The sleeve notes are well put together and provide insights into the album that I wasn’t aware of; including that Lol Tolhurst did make more of a contribution to the album than often given credit for (though he left after hearing the playback), how a fire nearly destroyed all of Smith’s lyrics on the first night at the studio and how the record company thought it was commercial suicide.

The original album still thrills from the wind-chime like opening of ‘Plainsong’ to the dying harmonium coda on ‘Untitled.’ This is a band firing on all cylinders, producing their masterpiece. And the minisite they have put together for this re-issue is truly phenomenal. And some of the greatest lyrics Smith has ever written.

21 years on, this still packs a truly emotional punch.

*****

The re-issue of Disintegration is out now on Fiction.

Does there have to be a reason?

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Well, in this case, yes.

Have recently been re-reading Rip It Up And Start Again, and for the first time, Totally Wired, which are the interviews that Simon Reynolds conducted to write the former book.

Utterly awesome and both are well worth it if you have any interest in the music that came from Europe and America after punk between 1978-1984. The years where the music was ‘post-punk’ and then evolved into ‘new pop.’ In fact my only gripe would be that the Cure and Kate Bush aren’t considered important in this period by Reynolds. And Gary Numan doesn’t seem to get much of a look in either. Other than that, great stuff, covering an era that shows Reynolds is right in saying that it vies with the sixties for quality and creativity.

So a few songs from the era concerned…

Propaganda -‘Dr. Mabuse.’ mp3 (This band bridge the gap perfectly between post-punk and ‘new pop.’ )

Human League -‘Being Boiled.’ mp3 (both ‘post-punk’ and ‘new pop.’)

Gary Numan -‘Cars.’ mp3

The Cure -‘A Forest.’ mp3

Kate Bush -‘Wuthering Heights.’ mp3

Gang Of Four -‘Damaged Goods.’ mp3

Delta 5 -‘Mind Your Own Business.’ mp3

Depeche Mode -‘Master and Servant.’ mp3 (in which the subversive ideas of wreckers of civilisation like Throbbing Gristle enter the top ten and Top Of the Pops)

Finally, one of the true pioneers, Green Gartside of Scritti Politti, deserves two entries, one for his none more post-punk and DIY and the second for being one of the best songs ever, bridging the gap between post-punk and new pop:

Scritti Politti -‘Skank Bloc Bologna.’ mp3

Scritti Politti -‘The ‘Sweetest Girl’.’mp3

33 1/3 Part 8

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The Cure -‘Disintegration’ (Fiction, 1989)

Very few bands make it to an eighth album. (Actually, I suppose you could argue, given the amount of bands that must form and split up, very few make it to actually releasing anything). But ten years after they released their debut Three Imaginary Boys, The Cure released their eighth album Disintegration in May 1989.

What was even more astonishing was not only how good the album was -and is, it’s dated extremely well – but the contents therein. The Cure had gone from being yet another band out of the Post-Punk/New Wave who had taken the possibilities of what had gone before and run with them. From their second album, 1980’s Seventeen Seconds, they had become associated with what would become known as the raincoat bands/positive punk/goth…call it what you will. Two further albums over the next successive years, Faith and Pornography, saw them get darker and fiercer. A surprise then that under Robert Smith’s leadership they would discover pop and get bigger and bigger, managing to retain and pop sensibility, maintaining a loyal fanbase and attracting ever more folk to the cause. The next three albums, The Top, The Head On The Door and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me saw them reach ever successive heights, as they gained not just NME and Melody Maker covers but appearances in Smash Hits and on Top Of The Pops. So the expectation for their eighth album was pretty high.

Disintegration is a wonderful album, twelve tracks long (the LP misses off ‘Homesick’ and ‘Last Dance’; it’s one of very few albums I’d rather have on CD than vinyl) that for much of it is extremely sad and dark. As they headlined festivals and drew bigger and bigger crowds, they might have been expected to have gone completely pop. Instead, they released what would become viewed as a sister album to Pornography in its’ intensity (this would later form part of a trilogy with the release in 2000 of the Bloodflowers album, perhaps the most underrated album of this band’s career).

The opening song ‘Plainsong’ would continue to open gigs for over a decade afterwards. It really is plainsong, managing to be simple and yet majestic at the same time. Your hair stands on end without needing to be backcombed, as slowly the band come in, one by one. The closer ‘Untitled’ with similar motifs to ‘Plainsong’ played on the harmonium is a perfect matching bookend. Smith had married his long-term girlfriend Mary the previous year, and a tape of the second single Love Song was his wedding present to her. It’s an honest love song, about how he feels, but also acknowledging that there may be difficult times. They’re still married now…

Other hits from the album were ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Pictures Of You’ (the US also got a single of ‘Fascination Street’). In Lullaby, Robert Smith envisaged himself being eaten by a spider man, and a fantastically creepy video ensued. It became the band’s biggest hit in the UK, reaching no.5; ‘Love Song’ would also reach no.2 in the US. Thus, two years before Nirvana’s Nevermind is perceived as opening the door for ‘alternative’ music, The Cure had already done it two years earlier.

It’s not an upbeat album, but by no means is it as harrowing as Pornography. All shades of life as seen here; Smith coming to terms with being thirty, just as Bloodflowers would deal with hitting middle-age ten years later. It contains hit singles, that were deservedly hits, which reached out to the casual observers. Other tracks like the title track, the full album version of’ ‘Pictures Of You’ and ‘Prayers For Rain’ showed that emotionally intense and epic songs could still be their forte.

20 years later, you’re left to conclude that the title might almost be ironic. Though long-serving keyboardist (and formerly drummer) Lol Tolhurst left during the recording of the album, this is not the sound of a band disintegrating. Rather, it’s the sound of a band firing on all cylinders, lyrically, musically, emotionally.

This post originally appeared, written by me, over at The Vinyl Villain on May 26.

The Cure -‘Plainsong.’ mp3

17 Seconds Blog – The 1,000th post

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Yes indeed!

Technically, it is more than 1,000 posts, on the grounds that I have lost a few posts after clashes with the DMCA last year, but here it is, the 1,000th published post on the blog.

So, what’s happened since I started the blog back in July 2006? I’ve reveiwed lots of albums, and quite a few gigs, interviewed some great bands, and started a record label. It’s been hard work, I’ve been driven to distraction, but I feel that there are lots of people who enjoy the blog, as it generally gets over 1,000 hits a day (1400 seems to be the record).

I’ve also enjoyed writing about bands that have come and gone – the posts on the Shop Assistants and Motorcycle Boy, for example, seem to have struck a chord. Hopefully one day those records will be properly re-issued.

Thanks is due, first and foremost to the wonderful Sam, Mrs. 17 Seconds, for all her love and support, and patience. As well as to all the readers (whether I know you or not) who have left feedback, artists who got in touch about stuff they are doing, fellow bloggers who supported me through thick and thin and linked to me, and anyone who sent me mp3s when I begged for them.

Many thanks to to everyone who has helped with the label – Mrs. 17 Seconds, my business partner Laurent, Scott for doing all the mailouts and support; my parents and brother; our five artists; Shona Donaldson, Bruce Finday, Julia Nicolle, for vital work and support; and the DJs who have supported us on the radio: Jim Gellatley, Tom Robinson, Iain Baker and especially Vic Galloway, and everyone who has come to the gigs, stocked our records, bought the music, written about us and supported us. Apologies to anyone who really should be on here that I have forgotten.

(And no thanks to the person who tried to use this against me. God is watching you.)

The song that started it all:

The Cure -‘Seventeen Seconds.’ mp3

The most popular song to appear on the blog:

Manic Street Preachers -‘Umbrella (Rihanna cover).’ mp3

One of the bands, gone but not forgotten that I have championed:

Motorcycle Boy -‘Big Rock Candy Mountain.’ mp3

…and proof, if proof should be needed after all this time, that this blog is not just about white men with guitars:

Nina Simone -‘Feeling Good.’ mp3

Bless you all XX