Last Saturday I joined roughly 65,000 other people to see the Cure play a 40th Anniversary celebration gig in Hyde Park, London. It was a short gig (by Cure) standards of about 2½ hours due to the venue's strict curfew, and as predicted, the set was (for the most part) a straightforward run through the greatest hits. However, the atmosphere was fantastic. It may have been helped along by the great weather we were enjoying (over 30°C), England winning a World Cup match a few hours earlier, and the infectious joy of London Pride that took place a short trip up the road. A great time was had by all.
Last year, a friend of mine who had never listened to the Cure had asked me to recommend (only) 5 songs which would give a reasonable overview. (5 from over 200 studio recorded songs). As with Coil, this is quite a challenging task, and here's what I came up with. In most cases, the videos are from the Hyde Park show (but it's worth seeking out the studio versions too)
1. "Pictures of You"
Walking a delicate line between their dark and light songs, "Pictures of You" is one of those rare songs where the extended remix is possibly better than the original (which is not short either)
2. "If Only Tonight We Could Sleep"
I love this song. I'm a complete sucker for the Phrygian scale. I was extremely happy to finally catch it live for the first time at Hyde Park, which was my fourth Cure gig (and hopefully not my last)
The nu-metal band "Deftones" have occasionally covered this song live, and they do a fantastic job of it. They played it this year for their Meltdown appearance, and a version appears on their "B-Side and Rarities". My favourite take was from a 2004 appearance on MTV's "MTV Icon" programme honouring the Cure:
3. "Killing An Arab"
The provocatively-titled first single by the group takes its name from the pivotal scene in the Albert Camus novel "The Stranger" and is not actually endorsing the murder of people. Despite this it's an unfortunate title, and in recent years they have often performed it as "Killing Another". The song loses nothing in renaming, in my opinion.
The original recording is a sparse, tight, angular post-punk piece, but it's in the live setting that this song really shines, and it's a live version I recommend you try.
4. "Just Like Heaven"
It might be obvious that my tastes align more to the Cure's dark side than the light, but the light side can't be ignored. Most of their greatest hits and best known work are light, accessible pop classics. Choosing just one was amongst the hardest decisions to make. For the selection I offered my friend, I opted for "Friday I'm In Love", which is unabashed joy, but it didn't meet a warm reception, so I now substitute it for "Just Like Heaven".
Bonus video: someone proposed in the middle of this song!
5. "The Drowning Man"
From their "Very Dark" period, another literature-influenced track, this time Mervyn Peake's "Gormenghast": "The Drowning Man"
If you let the video run on, you'll get a bonus 6th track, similarly rarely performed live: Faith. I haven't seen either live yet. Maybe one day!