I finally got around to listening to this album 40 years after its release. Just saying that gives me the bends. It was the year I arrived in Australia and within 12 months pre-teen me was hearing Boys Don’t Cry, and Let’s Go To Bed on 96fm in its 1980s relatively independent phase before it was sold to a mainstream entertainment company. Those were the days, say I in a mock creaky voice, because 96fm was a unique station staffed by music buffs who actively educated listeners on music history and kept their playlist both broad and deep, playing 60s, 70s and what was then contemporary 80s music, album cuts as well as singles, and regular live concerts – all of which was relevant in a pre-Internet world, where you were at the mercy of radio stations, your friends, and your own puny budget in what you would end up accessing.
Welcome back to my open music journal. It’s about to get underway again after a hiatus, and here’s why it’s been a year since I wrote anything new.
Last year I took a break from it to move the material from a forum onto my own space. You’d think that the best place to write this stuff would be a public forum specifically for the audience of the band whose back catalogue I am exploring. After all, my husband has a thing for writing recreational essays on the Cyberman episodes of Dr Who audio dramas, and duly places them on Gallifrey Base…
I think this is a terrific album opener – heart on the sleeve, in your face, setting the tone and preparing you for what is to come.
Dickens is a master at summing up people in brief but evocative descriptions, and I think The Cure have a similar talent for summing up emotions and situations in (relatively) brief but evocative pieces of music. The Promise is a vivid portrait of deep disappointment and grief, and it instantly took me back to the last time I’d heard someone express these emotions, to the same painful extent. The fact that this was also on my iPod and in the garden probably helped to link the two; the brain does things like this…
The general vibe about this album from other people had been fairly negative – including from my husband, who sampled it in a record shop when it came out but decided he didn’t like the sound. But you know what, I’ve just given it a spin and I like it.
Just clarifying – looking at what’s been written out there, on Reddit and forums and in the music press, I get the general impression that quite a few of the original fans (or at least the most vocal ones) were never really happy again post-Wish (or some of them, post-Pornography). The extra-whiny complaining began with Wild Mood Swings, and never really ended. Sometimes I think that it’s common for people get stuck in a perceived golden musical age of their own teenage years, possibly because that’s when everything is fresh, and a lot of neural connections are being made, and people go through a lot of feelings. Once you’ve grown up, you may not be quite so easy to move or inspire again, particularly if there’s a tendency to nostalgia, and a dissatisfaction with the present in general. And the problem may actually be that, and not the music.
MANIPULATION, ANYONE? Unlike most of the other tracks on this album, Wendy Time is not a lovely track to listen to, but if you’re writing a tune about shameless manipulation and terrible pick-up lines, you probably don’t want a lovely tune – but one that reflects the nausea-inducing scenario related. And in that sense, the tune really fits, its unpleasantness and discord appropriate for the topic. Although this is not a song I’d go out of my way to listen to for its aesthetic appeal, I do applaud its inclusion on this album for thematic reasons.
There’s a whole swag of love-gone-wrong songs on Wish – and here’s one situation that could head that way but never does, because it’s nipped in the bud by the target of the manipulation, who is wise to it – which has me cheering, because so many people fall for this sort of thing.
LOVE GONE WRONG, LET ME COUNT THE WAYS (finale) Cut is a jagged sort of number, a lament for a dying relationship.
Sometimes it’s like that and there’s nothing you can do – Sensate Focus won’t fix this and psychotherapy doesn’t look good here either; along with other tools they’re better at preventing this kind of disconnection that trying to fix something that’s broken into two separate pieces. Sometimes something is just dead, and all you can do is write a dirge. The sad thing here is that the death of the thing is so lopsided, as it so often is – with one party checked out, and the other wishing it wasn’t so. All that you can do then is to remember that there’s lots of other people you can connect with – and that thinking you’re never going to feel again like you felt about the person who checked out is a bit of a grass-is-greener thing, and a bit like when you’ve had a big lunch and you can’t imagine ever feeling hungry again – because you will.
LOVE GONE WRONG, LET ME COUNT THE WAYS (continued) End was one of our personal favourites on Show, which we had for yonks before Wish. I guess we’re not particularly into shiny music most of the time, so a song like this appeals to us way more than Friday I’m In Love, musically but also lyrically. Let me hasten to add though that if you were to go the other side of End into deliberately wallowing, wrist-slitting, let’s-lie-down-in-this-and-do-nothing-like-we-have-no-agency music, I’d be off the train as well, because I find that seriously annoying – the idea of deliberate victimhood, fashionable with some. There’s a huge difference between that, and healthy confrontation of dark things about life.
I’m really enjoying our new acquisition Wish, on multiple levels – musically there’s so much on there that’s lovely, and even the stuff that’s not I think is the way it is to reinforce the story told by the lyrics – e.g. Wendy Time isn’t exactly a beautiful song, but the quacking Donald-Duck type guitars and the dissonance and ner-ner-ness of the thing just goes with the portrait of an insufferable attempt at manipulation, which the narrator is wise to, which in turn makes me go, “Hooray!” because how many people fall for that, not just once but repeatedly…
It’s mostly like aromatherapy for your ears (not roses or geranium, and nothing fake with phthalates from the chemistry lab either, more like sandalwood and boronia), while the lyrics to most of the songs are written with great care, go well as stand-alone poetry, and make you think. If there’s a main theme, I think it’s interpersonal relationships and the human condition…but I would think that – it’s like, “What do you see?”
THE MAILBOX IS GROANING. CDs have descended on our mailbox thick and fast and yesterday we found Pornography in it. OMG, the things that happen when you’re ordering from the Cure back catalogue… Alas, that and the self-titled are staying in their wrappers while I take a look at the 1992 album Wish.