A Gateway to The Cure – Standing On A Beach – by Killian Laher
Reflecting on The Cure and my own relationship with them, which dates back more than 30 years. Pretty sure the first thing I heard was Love Cats, back in 1983, via a friend’s Now That’s What I Call Music album. It was also a bit of a staple of discos at the time, just about as alternative as discos were allowed to get in those days.
I was neither blown away nor repelled by it but it certainly stayed with me. Have a memory of seeing the band performing The Caterpillar on Top of the Pops and I definitely struggled with Robert Smith’s singing on this one. The first track that really grabbed me was In Between Days. I was 15 and it was the perfect time to hear lyrics like “yesterday I got so old I felt like I could die” over what sounded like ‘regretful’ guitar chords. The mid-eighties was a visual age, with song videos etc and I did find the band’s appearance a bit strange, particularly the very brief visuals I had seen of their Close To Me video.
All of the above changed on a family holiday when we stumbled upon what must have been some sort of retrospective of The Cure on television. Consisting of interviews and song clips of songs like Boys Don’t Cry and Jumping Someone Else’s Train, I was hooked. Conveniently for me, the band had just released their Standing On A Beach compilation album which I bought and absolutely lapped up. Songs like Killing An Arab, A Forest and Charlotte Sometimes were unusual to my ears but had just the right amount of ‘gloom’ to appeal. A Forest in particular with its prominent bass, barely there vocals and overall enveloping sound brought a whole new way of listening to music to me, the song is a highly immersive, mini-mood piece. All of their singles from 1979 to 1985 are on this compilation, making it a bit of schizophrenic listen, particularly moving from The Hanging Garden’s clattering and wailing to Let’s Go To Bed’s far chirpier synths. In those days that involved turning over the record from side 1 to side 2.
In those days there was no easy way to find out what other albums they had, but I was determined to track down more, which became something of an obsession for me through the next few years.
These days I seldom listen to it, favouring their ‘proper albums’. But every autumn, as summer fades away I tend to dig out The Cure albums. Never a band of manifestos or hugely engaging interviews, they’ve always let the music speak for itself.