Pornographic Disintegrating Bloodflowers
The Cure’s Axis of Evil
Daniel L. Mitchell
“One more day like today and I’ll kill you/A desire for flesh and real blood/And I’ll watch you drown in the shower, pushing my life through your open eyes/I must fight this sickness, find a cure.” These poetic words of sentiment and love come from 1982’s post-punk masterpiece, Pornography, recorded by The Cure. Anyone who has been angered to the point of seeing red can empathize with the above snippet. This is the beauty of Robert Smith and The Cure; a relentless and effortless ability to comfort the listener with gloom and tidings from the shadowy areas of the mind. No set of three recordings can come close to the darkness, anger, pain, despair, self-loathing, and bleak nature which are found in The Cure’s Pornography, Disintegration, and Bloodflowers.
I find such a truth to be important in the world, circa 2002, for the world’s “haunting” music fans, for lack of a better term, are turning to pseudo-“haunting” music out of necessity. “Haunting” is the term I choose, for the term “gothic” has been bastardized so completely, it no longer means anything accurate (by the way, can anyone really say with a straight face that ANY of the Projekt or Cleopatra bands are really all that convincing? I didn’t think so). Bands which can truly be considered “haunting” have, for the most part, disbanded or died out (see Lydia Lunch, very early Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Ink & Dagger, etc.). This is a terrible predicament for young people looking for something dark to connect with.
Enter The Cure’s triad of darkness. In 2000, Robert Smith, the only remaining original member of The Cure, released the incredibly fearful Bloodflowers. Robert was approaching his 40th birthday while working on Bloodflowers, and his apprehension to growing old runs rampant throughout the entire record. “So the fire is almost out, and there’s nothing left to burn… half my life I’ve been there, half my life in flames/Using all I ever had to keep the fire ablaze.” Robert croons here, in “39,” about his drying up creatively, while an enormous plodding of drums and heavily distorted bass pound away in the background. In the album’s title track, which is the greatest single Cure song since 1981’s “Faith,” Robert writes of a conversation with a girl: “Never fade, never die; you give me flowers of love/Always fade, always die, I let fall flowers of blood.” Oh, that’s hot stuff!
Taking it back to 1989, we find Disintegration, the album which really put The Cure on the map in America (they’re from the U.K., silly!). Many Cure fanatics argue that this record was Robert Smith’s creative peak, the writing of it having followed his 1988 marriage to longtime girlfriend Mary and his concurring slip into a major depression. Untrue or not, Disintegration provided me with an escape from the metal I had been listening to during the summer of ’89 as a 13-year-old, when I fell head over heels in love for the MTV video for “Fascination Street,” a hard rockin’ track with very loud guitars and bass. I thank The Cure for saving me, even though I never got over my love for Metallica.
Disintegration opens with the incredibly slow, funeral like march of “Plainsong.” “Plainsong,” like the aforementioned “Bloodflowers,” is a conversation with a girl about love, spoken against a backdrop of grey and rain. “‘It feels so cold, it’s like the cold if you were dead,’ and then you smiled for a second.” The one thing about this record, though, is that no amount of writing I do can describe Robert’s completely lost and sullen vocal delivery on Disintegration; it’s simply beyond words. I’m guessing most of the world has heard Disintegration at least once (or you’ve heard “Pictures Of You” or “Lovesong” on the radio), so I will leave this record at this: I’ve never heard one single record, of any genre, which is so completely well written, in all aspects, from start to finish. It really is, as the boys from South Park said, “…the greatest record ever made.”
Returing to 1982’s Pornography: This record is truly the most disturbing piece of music I’ve ever heard. Not the scariest piece of Satanic black metal, no amount of corpse paint, no furious attack of blast beats, absolutely nothing can compare to the bizarre feeling I have after listening to Pornography. The album opens with the very propulsive and grinding “One Hundred Years,” in which Robert declares “It doesn’t matter if we all die.” The main guitar line sounds like it was taken from a murder movie (Friday The 13th, maybe?) and it is truly “haunting” in both delivery and lyrical content. “Siamese Twins,” a lovely waltz with tribal drums, features one of my favorite Cure lines of all time: “Sing out loud, we all die! Laughing into the fire, ‘is it always like this?’” These lines are accompanied, still, by the high pitched, strangely distorted guitar melodies which create just as much discomfort as the music.
I would like to discuss, quickly, the incredible sound quality of Pornography. Recorded by eventual Cure bassist and future famous songwriter (see Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn.” He wrote it!), Phil Thornalley, I can’t put into words what a wonderful job he did for The Cure here. For the first (and last) time, The Cure was a truly abrasive sounding band, similar to late 1970’s Gang Of Four sound or, for you newcomers, the sound used by Steve Albini on every record he records: ringy, overdriven bass guitar, guitars lightly yet scrapingly fuzzy, and drums which sound as full as Led Zepplin’s drums did. I offer endless thanks and praise to him for helping to create a most unnerving record.
It’s hard to say where I would be without The Cure to guide me, and my best friends Rick and Nate, through the stupidity of teenage years. Disintegration and Pornography are essential records to us, for so many reasons, but more than anything else, I feel that they aptly capture the alienation and awkwardness of life in general. Rather than trying to be tough (see Limp Bizkit), or overly disturbed (see Papa Roach), or very shocking (see Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Mudvayne, et c.), The Cure was (is?) a band that avoids being contrived (for the most part) and conveys true despair and pain, to which we can all relate.
After 20 years, it’s completely amazing that Pornography can still sound just as abrasive as Big Black and just as scary as the mind of Ian Curtis. Disintegration is the work of a true genius, at the height of his talent, going through truly rough mental times, and Bloodflowers is the attempt to and completion of Robert coping with age, while recreating the best parts of Pornography and Disintegration. The three albums stand as truly wonderful works and all are essential to any music fan who craves the darker side of life.