Being a musician, one of the best things you could hope for is being acknowledged by one of the bands that inspired you the most in your composition and sound experimentation endeavor. And that is exactly what just happened to Alcest. The music project led by Neige, pioneer of the now-called "blackgaze" genre, was invited by Robert Smith to perform at Meltdown festival (London), Smith being the music curator of the festival this year. In order to celebrate this properly, we asked Neige to prepare us a record selection of The Cure discography.
The Cure, Disintegration era
The best album to discover the band : The Head on the Door (1985)
" With The Head on the Door, The Cure had not yet reached the artistic summits or the mastery that they later showed with Disintegration, but this record is the first step towards maturity (continued with Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me) and is without a doubt one of their most surprising, inventive efforts. The Head on the Door developed the sound and image of the band, who back then were the unmistakable representative of the Gothic genre, to an artistically more accessible, colorful or even kaleidoscopic entity. Here, The Cure take a step ahead of their contemporaries thanks to their assertive production choices, paying particular attention to details. Each song showcases a highly recognizable sound palette. The LP features cult hymns like "In Between Days" or "Close To Me", the Japanese-style experiments of "Kyoto Song", and a return to their past melancholy on "A Night Like This" and "Sinking". The Head on the Door is as a whole, a rather uplifting album from The Cure, full of life (serving as the opposite of Pornography), but always marked by density and depth, revealing itself further each time we dive into it.
My favourite album : Disintegration (1989)
Speaking about Disintegration is not an easy task, as it is often considered (rightly so) as the masterpiece of the band through its paradoxes; the contrast between its richness and accessibility, and on the other side the depth and immediacy of its melodies. It has inspired me a lot over the years and is one of my favorites in any genre. The sincerity of the statement is what is most apparent from the first seconds of the album. We are captured by the ethereal beauty of "Plainsong" and the fragility of "Pictures Of You", probably one of the most moving declarations of love written by Robert Smith, who allegedly was even more invested in the composition of the record than usual. What strikes you when listening to Disintegration is the opposition between the quality of the production; ample and limpid, and the intimate, minimalistic spirit of the songs. There are few notes and no overbearing arrangements, each element is justified. The Cure found their balance between light and darkness, bliss and deep melancholy. In their darkest moments, for example during "The Same Deep Water as You", the same sophisticated production is what prevents them from flirting with outright gloom, as they did on Pornography. The quality of the recording impresses us and gives greatness to Simon Gallup's bass lines, pretty faithful to the genre standards until that point. The album feels somewhat like a homecoming, but this time, sadness bears a comforting dimension. We may dive into the arms of Disintegration as in those of a companion during our moments of distress, to ease our sorrow. The Cure are in full control of their craft, alternating memorable singles such as "Lullaby", "Fascination Street" and epic, lyrical murals such as "Plainsong" or "Prayers For Rain". Their music is often recognized for its diversity, sometimes at the edge of bipolarity, however, what in other cases could seem like a mere collection of songs, here adopts the form of a logical course through Robert Smith’s deep sensitivity. Through their assured and necessary slowness, the songs are cohesively linked, while possessing musical elements and themes that set them apart from each other. Disintegration is a monolithic, lengthy, somewhat demanding work, and is astonishing in the sense that its strength lies even more within the truthful interpretation of the music, than the actual melancholy of its melodies.
A song by The Cure that means something special to you : « Charlotte Sometimes » (1981)
This is a track you could quite often hear in the post-punk clubs I used to go to when I first moved to Paris, which is probably why I have a special attachment to it. “Charlotte Sometimes", released as a single in 1981, is a rather unknown Cure song. It does not appear on any of their albums. The melodies and the images evoked by the track are imprinted with black romanticism, and serves as a perfect summary of their entire cold wave period between 1980 and 1983. "Charlotte Sometimes" holds a special place in the purists’ heart. Despite its relative unfamiliar character, it is just as well-crafted as a classic like "A Forest" could be.
The record to deepen your knowledge of the band : Pornography (1982)
Darkness, as real as it can be. Beauty within the gloom. Pornography by The Cure; a rock album that could actually demote many of the grimmest black metal efforts. It is interesting to note that even though the genre and the form differ, the similarities with the early 90’s wave of Norwegian Black Metal are numerous. It is not a surprise that some of the musicians of this scene were inspired by it, seeing this record as a paragon of classy darkness. Pornography was composed when Robert Smith's depression reached its climax and also ended their cold and claustrophobic trilogy begun in 1980 with Seventeen Seconds. The first words we hear are : "It doesn’t matter if we all die...". With this, the tone is set and only dissipates with the abrupt end of the title track finishing the album and leaving the listener with an impression of obvious discomfort. If there ever was a gothic genre (some prefer the more sober term “post-punk”), Pornography certainly is, along with Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division and In The Flat Field by Bauhaus, one of its most convincing examples. It is a cathartic experience, distressing without any doubt (just like Slint's masterpiece, Spiderland), and essential as a crystallization of the most anxious facets of The Cure's music and Robert Smith’s personality.
A Cure album that you discovered recently : Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)
The Cure is one of the first 80s rock bands that I discovered at the end of my adolescence, when I wanted to know more about other musical genres outside of metal. At that time, I focused on their darkest LPs and I missed Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. This album is surprising, as it is quite long and gathers absolutely all the aspects of the band. If we consider The Head on the Door to be diverse, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me could almost feel like a compilation, because of its exceptionally wide sound spectrum. This record is full of compelling finds (not only on the singles for that matter), highlighting the most adventurous and avant-garde aspects of the band.
Their most underrated album : Faith (1981)
I have a very specific memory related to the listening of Faith. Around 2005, I was studying classical guitar at the Avignon Music School (which was located at the “Place du Palais des Papes” back then). I loved to listen to it on my way home from school after dark, going past the imposing architecture of the palace, walking down the small medieval streets leading to the heart of the city. This album has a mystical, foggy and twilight dimension to it, that blended perfectly with the landscapes in which I lived. During the composition of Faith, members of The Cure went through a period of doubt, mourning and existential questioning. Robert Smith frequented churches and he was inspired by the atmosphere of the Gregorian chants he was listening to. The music of Faith appears like the shape of a church lost in the mist, as the cover suggests, distant and enigmatic, as if a grey veil covered all the instruments. It has an almost religious dimension to it, especially in numbers such as "The Holy Hour" or "Faith". To some people, Faith might seem a bit drowsy at first, which is probably why it is not their most popular effort. However, its strength resides in its hypnotic touch. It has an aura, a particular color that is unmatched in the discography of the band."
by Neige (Alcest)