Exploring the Back Catalogue: Wish First Impressions

November 12, 2020


CDs have descended on our mailbox thick and fast and yesterday we found Pornography in it.  :1f631:  OMG, the things that happen when you’re ordering from the Cure back catalogue… :winking_tongue  Alas, that and the self-titled are staying in their wrappers while I take a look at the 1992 album Wish.

We had our first play-through last Friday night and @Ulrich, the wag, said, “Oh, you listened to Friday I’m In Love on an actual Friday!” But of course, the real miracle was that I listened to the studio version of Friday I’m In Love without rushing to turn it off.   :angel  However, in this case I did – to hear it as part of the album.  It’s not a bad song or anything, just like ryegrass pollen isn’t a bad thing per se.  I’m just a bit allergic to both of them!   :-D  All that exposure.  I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of the world, but here in Australia, for the past 28 years, not a Friday has gone by without commercial radio stations playing this song at least once.  You simply can’t avoid this song unless you completely shun society. 

On the plus side, it will have helped the band eat.  Also, I was thinking that if I’d never had this song shoved down my throat on a regular basis whether I wanted it or not, and had just met it in the middle of a Cure set, I wouldn’t have had that reaction.

I was over-exposed to this – although if Lullaby got played once a week that wouldn’t bother me at all, or any of dozens of other Cure numbers – actually, I’d love to make commercial radio play The Kiss on high rotation, or One Hundred Years or The Scream or Freakshow… or perhaps best of all, Babble…  :angel

Brett is saying, “When I become Emperor of the Universe, I will be able to arrange this for you.”

Anyhow, so our first listen created a very favourable impression.  It’s helpful that it doesn’t sound the least bit 80s – the music I enjoyed listening to the most in the actual 80s didn’t sound anything like the 80s either and even now is timeless.  I think Wish has a timeless sound too, and so does Bloodflowers, and I don’t think you can place Disintegration – an actual 80s album – in the 80s just by listening to it either.  I like it when music can’t be easily dated to a particular decade by its sound – I guess I’ve never liked fashions and fads, and just preferred authenticity.  That carries right into preferring houses that people build themselves with a bit of imagination, rather than getting a McDonald’s type experience.


Wish almost feels like a theme album lyrically – so many songs on love gone wrong (or love at least presenting difficulties), one song on love gone right, two on manipulation, a mental health song, and that famous weekday ditty.  That’s just on first impression – I may be missing data at this stage.

Speaking of Disintegration, a couple of days later we were chatting about Wish in the car in-between listening to some live Cure, when the title track of that came on.  And isn’t it interesting that so many songs from the follow-up release to Disintegration are variations on the theme of the title track of the predecessor.

So now, I’ve got a difficult task lined up:  Attempting to articulate why the lyrics of the song Disintegration continue to speak to me and to make my hair stand on end at every encounter.  Let’s just look at it like a poem on a page – which of course is not what a song is, a song has so many more dimensions – but the lyrics to this track stand up extraordinarily well on their own, too:


Oh, I miss the kiss of treachery
The shameless kiss of vanity
The soft and the black and the velvety
Up tight against the side of me

And mouth and eyes and heart all bleed
And run in thickening streams of greed
As bit by bit it starts the need
To just let go my party piece

I miss the kiss of treachery
The aching kiss before I feed
The stench of a love for a younger meat
And the sound that it makes when it cuts in deep
The holding up on bended knees
The addiction of duplicities
As bit by bit it starts the need
To just let go my party piece

But I never said I would stay to the end
So I leave you with babies and hoping for frequency
Screaming like this in the hope of the secrecy
Screaming me over and over and over
I leave you with photographs, pictures of trickery
Stains on the carpet and stains on the scenery
Songs about happiness murmured in dreams
When we both of us knew how the ending would be

So it’s all come back round to breaking apart again
Breaking apart like I’m made up of glass again
Making it up behind my back again
Holding my breath for the fear of sleep again
Holding it up behind my head again
Cut in deep to the heart of the bone again
Round and round and round and it’s coming apart again
Over and over and over

And now that I know that I’m breaking to pieces
I’ll pull out my heart and I’ll feed it to anyone
I’m crying for sympathy, crocodiles cry
For the love of the crowd
And the three cheers from everyone
Dropping through sky
Through the glass of the roof
Through the roof of your mouth
Through the mouth of your eye
Through the eye of the needle
It’s easier for me to get closer to Heaven
Than ever feel whole again

But I never said I would stay to the end
I knew I would leave you and fame isn’t everything
Screaming like this in the hope of sincerity
Screaming it’s over and over and over
I leave you with photographs, pictures of trickery
Stains on the carpet and stains on the memory
Songs about happiness murmured in dreams
When we both of us knew how the end always is
How the end always is

How the end always is
How the end always is
How the end always is
How the end always is

From a writer’s perspective, this is A+ poetry – the use of language in this is magnificent on so many levels.  This piece is so visceral, and so supersaturated with evocative imagery, and displays such a consciousness of words and phrases and their various meanings and connotations… if you’re a word nerd, it’s a rare treat to encounter stuff like this.

As to the story being told, it’s one of those where I want to back right off and let it tell itself – because it’s one of those where discussion of it can attempt to railroad people into narrow perspectives, as I think is the case with the annotations to this song on Genius lyrics (click on the highlighted text to see), as well as the quotes from the Rolling Stone writer at the bottom of the page.  It’s like these people are wanting to pin this song down, “prove” things, like that they have the “correct take” when the beauty of a song or a poem like this is that it’s multi-dimensional and operates on various levels.  They’ll correctly identify some element or other, but then often be tempted to leap to narrow conclusions from there, as if one proves the other when it really doesn’t.

I really want to avoid adding to that pile with what I’m writing.  I don’t generally think I have “the” correct take for a song or poem etc, I just have working hypotheses – and generally speaking I’m not as interested in narrowing things down as I am in broadening the way I see things (because that’s something you have to work on), and learning to look in different ways.  This is why I started open-journalling about music here – because it’s a learning process, and because writing things down has always helped me to think.  I just record my reactions honestly, then think about them – metacognition is something you can do like Pilates, but you don’t need a mat for it.  Along the way with this project, I’ve had some strong personal reactions, both positive and negative, and seen some ghosts come out of cupboards to boot – and I like to joke that a full-priced Cure album costs you less than an hour of psychotherapy.  :angel

Getting back to the lyrics and those comments on them on Genius – attempts are made to personalise this stuff and forget there can be a distance between the writer and the narrator (as there clearly is here, e.g. the writer doesn’t have babies… Brett the Empiricist says, that we know about or possibly he knows about, and I’m reminding him that there are surgical methods of permanent contraception if you’re determined not to have any) – I’ve made that mistake before too with some songs (because they’re so emotionally convincing – have you ever seen an actor play a string of villains so persuasively that you’re starting to think the actor is like that themselves, and then you’re surprised they’re not?).  Anyway, I see Disintegration more as a piece that’s informed by personal experience, than one that’s strictly autobiographical – like familiar emotions draped over a fiction or a semi-fiction – which is also what writers of novels and short stories need to do in order to write convincing characters.

November 13, 2020

A few more early impressions of the Wish album, after several listens with headphones while going about chores… Lovely is an adjective that keeps suggesting itself when I’m thinking about the music.  Also, it’s an incredibly cohesive album, so much so that I’m not having any urge to skip anything (even Friday I’m In Love :winking_tongue – total miracle that it should be so) – and in that way it’s very like Disintegration or Bloodflowers – all the sound on it just fits together, and there’s no song that sticks out like a sore thumb – not even Wendy Time, which I’ve seen much disliked in online fan discussions and I’d braced myself for, but thematically I can see why it’s there – unpalatable as the situation in it is, if you’re going to present various narratives on relationships gone wrong, you may as well have a narrative on a relationship never getting underway because the target is wise to the crummy manipulation on offer  :smth023 (and notice how the word “relationship” has “relate” in it; it’s not a “manipulationship”).

The sound, including the singing, on Wish is distinctly different to live performances of the same material, and though I generally prefer Cure material live (because they’re brilliant live and the immediacy etc), in this case I’m drawn to both equally – sort of like a situation where you enjoy different “takes” on a classical music piece equally, because they bring out different elements, and all those elements are interesting in different ways.

The singing is kind of – dissonant doesn’t quite describe it, because it’s not a negative quality… it’s kind of brittle and edgy without being grating.  You know how a good narrator of audiobooks adjusts their voice to the prose they are reading, and this really brings out the prose – in a similar way to how onomatopoeia works – the sound is like the sense of the word and this amplification happens as a result.  The distinct voice on this album marries well to the general themes.  In addition, you’re not straining to make out what’s being said when listening to this album, it’s all pretty clear.

Audio quality is very good, almost as good as on KMKMKM (and unlike on our copy of Disintegration, which sounds really clipped and is an impediment to my enjoyment of the music).

Comments on lyrics may be expanded upon someday in my previous entry as I go – because of the open-edit here I can do this retrospectively.  :cool

November 21, 2020

We looked at Disintegration at the top of this page, and I’m going to use this entry to start having a look at songs on Wish which seem to me to be variations on that theme.


Wish has one love-gone-right song in High (which in turn has a supercalifragilistic B-side on love-gone-phenomenally-and-spectacularly-right in This Twilight Garden), and a whole swag of love-gone-wrong songs.  Not that it’s a binary thing in real life, it’s more like a spectrum, but for the purposes of this discussion I’m allowing myself these terms, because everyone will understand what I mean by that.

We’re currently looking at people’s favourite romantic songs on another thread – and mostly looking at love-gone-right songs there, because people say “How romantic!” when they see couples holding hands, kissing, giving off really positive body language, waxing lyrical (if they like the lyrics :winking_tongue), bestowing flowers or home-made marzipan hearts, etc, but (unless they are completely deranged  :1f632:) they most categorically do not say “How romantic!” if a couple is falling out of love, or breaking up, or if they are cheating on each other, or throwing things at each other, or mistreating each other in a multitude of other ways.

And yet, for some reason, the most deeply affecting love songs are often the ones where things are going wrong.  I think in part it’s that almost everyone has been traumatised at one point or another by a relationship ending, or never going right in the first place, or starting out fine and then going off the rails (temporarily or permanently) – it’s such a universal experience.  Added to that, our brains are biologically set up to pay more attention to bad experiences than to good ones (because this promotes our physical survival) – and tricks like metacognition and mindfulness and practising gratitude are all about working around our brains’ preoccupation with monsters under the bed and the things that have gone wrong in our lives, and the things we use to distract ourselves from those.

But we also need catharsis – we can’t just look elsewhere all the time, we do actually have to deal with the difficult stuff.  So in a sense, a good love-gone-wrong-song is community therapy, or even preventative medicine.  (A useless love-gone-wrong-song romanticises and therefore perpetuates the inherent dysfunctions – see also KY-Jelly-FM.)

And then there’s the old argument that the devil has the best tunes.  Do you think that’s true?  And to put a twist on this, do you prefer the heartbreak of From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea to the bliss of This Twilight Garden?  Do you prefer a good murder novel to a biography of a person who had a very nice life?  Do you prefer vampires to cherubs?  Jalapeño peppers to a nice sheep’s milk cheese?  A bed of nails to a floaty-cloud-mattress?  Piranhas to goldfish? ;)

As readers and viewers and probably listeners, we humans are generally drawn more to drama than to things going swimmingly (though perhaps best to sample from both) – and for many of us, that’s probably because we’re trying to solve our own problems and understand things that are still murky to us.  Plus, who wants to listen to how wonderful someone else’s life is when you’ve just had a major crisis in your own?

Before I sat down to write this, Brett and I came up with a joke together:  What kind of romance novels do goths read? …Mills & Gloom, of course!  (…as opposed to Bilge & Swoon… :1f635:)

And as Sally Sparrow said in the very gothic Dr Who episode Blink, “I like sad things. Sad is happy for deep people.”  (Small commercial break – if you’ve never seen this episode, remedy this matter – this is a good stand-alone story, you don’t have to like sci-fi, Dr Who is hardly even in it, and I’ve never shown it to anyone who didn’t like it – that’s several hundred people so far! :cool)   See here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHz8hulp2RM

Now without further ado, let’s have a look at some love-gone-wrong lyrics from Wish.


He waits for her to understand
But she won’t understand at all
She waits all night for him to call
But he won’t call anymore
He waits to hear her say, “Forgive”
But she just drops her pearl-black eyes
And prays to hear him say, “I love you”
But he tells no more lies

He waits for her to sympathize
But she won’t sympathize at all
She waits all night to feel his kiss
But always wakes alone
He waits to hear her say, “Forget”
But she just hangs her head in pain
And prays to hear him say, “No more
I’ll never leave again”

How did we get this far apart?
We used to be so close together
How did we get this far apart?
I thought this love would last forever

He waits for her to understand
But she won’t understand at all
She waits all night for him to call
But he won’t call
He waits to hear her say, “Forgive”
But she just drops her pearl black eyes
And prays to hear him say, “I love you”
But he tells no more lies

How did we get this far apart?
We used to be so close together
How did we get this far apart?
I thought this love would last forever
How did we get this far apart?
We used to be so close together
How did we get this far apart?
I thought this love would last forever

Like Disintegration, this works beautifully even just on the page – it’s so well written, and the choice and arrangement of the words make their own sort of music when you read through.  Here’s two people beyond being able to give each other what they most need, ever again – and the impossibility is so wonderfully summed up in the lines He waits to hear her say, “Forgive”/But she just drops her pearl black eyes/And prays to hear him say, “I love you”/But he tells no more lies.  The chorus in turn captures so well the stunned disbelief, and the going round in circles of mourning. 

I really do think it’s useful to look at lyrics on a page, to avoid unnecessary misconceptions.  I listened to this song on Paris for years because I often play that album on my iPod while mowing lawn, and I’d half-hear the lyrics, but I always missed that one crucial line, so I had the impression that this was about two people who’d come to an impasse in their relationship, and were pining for each other and wishing they could work things out, but that each was waiting for the other to make the first move.  Funnily, Brett was under the same impression – and it’s not as if that’s an unusual situation either.

But when I looked at the lyric sheet at last, I noticed the crucial line:  But he tells no more lies.  So, the forgiveness he would like is for not wanting to stay together, not (solely, anyway) for his part in the problems the couple had – while she is having a hard time accepting the relationship is over.  This is also a common scenario (and works both ways; the genders at each end to me are incidental). 

These are the kinds of songs that are very useful for inclusion in relationship education programmes, or in general education (e.g. English curriculum, middle and senior schools) to get people thinking and talking about relationships, expectations around those, when to work on it versus when to give up on it, breaking up and dealing with the emotions around that, relationship ethics, self-care etc.  Fictional scenarios (lyrics, poetry, novels, films etc) are really good for getting everyone involved, and encouraging people to make comparisons with real-life situations they’ve seen and experienced.

The ethics are a bit of a Pandora’s box – and basically, within reason, everyone needs to draw their own personal lines where they think is right for them (and that may change with time and circumstance).  One central ethical conundrum brought up by the song Apart is around breakups of relationships that were begun on the understanding (or maybe the hope?) they weren’t experimental – whereas if you have a relationship that’s experimental and both sides are clear on this from the beginning, breaking up is usually a less painful experience, since no promises around longevity (and perhaps other matters) were made, and therefore you don’t have to deal with broken promises, or the shock of suddenly being on vastly different pages to what you thought you were.

Want to put your hand up if you’ve been through a breakup similar to the one depicted in Apart?  Well, the breakup of my first relationship, in my early 20s, is a fit for that song – and I was the person who got very hurt and had difficulty accepting what had happened, just like the girl in this song.  However, how different these things are in hindsight – because I don’t regret the loss of that relationship in hindsight.  I very soon afterwards learnt the truth of “better a painful end than an endless pain” – and I grew from the experience, and it paved the way to where I am now (and that’s a very good place).

It’s rather interesting surviving an ending you thought was going to kill you – because after that, you know that these things don’t actually kill you, they just feel like they’re going to.  This is a very liberating discovery, and puts a spring in your step.  A relationship ending is not the worst thing that can happen, just like death isn’t the worst thing possible – it’s far worse to live an “unlife” than it is to die, if you ask me.

Something I think is really positive is that in the last 30 years, the pressure on girls to “get it right first time” and immediately (or at all) end up in a lifelong relationship (or at least be prepared to make it one) has mercifully decreased significantly.  The double standard around that has been eroding, and girls are more likely to get experience dating different people, and to learn what works for them and what doesn’t, and are less likely to feel obliged to settle down with their first serious boyfriend.  (In that sense, by the way, the gendering in Apart does make a point.)

Breakup ethics, anyone?  What do you do if you’ve got a relationship that started with the mutual hope that it would be lasting, and continued on with promises being made, and then one person works out that this is not what they want after all, or that it doesn’t work for them and they can’t or don’t want to make it work?  Or if one person finds that they don’t really love the other in the way they think a person in a long-term relationship should be loved – and they work through the whole feelings-versus-actions thing, and are still stuck?  (I’m of the opinion that love isn’t just some magical feeling, I’m of the opinion it’s a disposition you have towards someone – and that love is a doing thing and a respecting thing, not a magical bit of unicorn dust the universe showers upon you, and that the attitude is more important than the feeling, and that good feelings follow good attitudes, rather than that you stop having a good attitude when the good feelings go temporarily missing.  This is not, of course, to say you should stay in a relationship that’s lacking in respect, or that you think isn’t going to be particularly helpful for the evolution of both its participants – even if you promised to stay long-term, and that’s where these things get hairy… Love includes healthy self-love, self-care and self-respect – and having an authentic self to give from.)

I think it would be really helpful if the general population understood at an early age that a lot of those “magical unicorn dust” feelings are just products of our biochemistry that are about inducing us to pass on our genes – often compounded by situations where people grew up without sufficient love and support, and now any morsel anyone throws them seems like a religious experience by comparison.  A real relationship isn’t about magical unicorn dust, it’s about actually relating, and really seeing and hearing each other, instead of projecting our own fantasies or failings on other people.  It’s about a sum that’s greater than its parts, and creating an environment in which both people can flourish, and a couple who are helping rather than hindering each other to grow the way each wants to.  The relationship has to bring out the best in each other, or it’s not sustainable, or even worth it.

Although of course, some people cling to, for example, staying married, just for the sake of not being seen to fail or because they don’t know what else to do, even if they actually don’t have a good relationship at all – and they celebrate their wedding anniversaries with big fanfare and personal pride, but they treat each other with contempt in everyday life, and have both become sad, shrivelled caricatures of human beings, and their own karma.  (That was how it was modelled to me by my own parents.)

All of these sorts of things need to be publicly talked about as a kind of social immunisation to repeating the cycles we were born into – so we can learn to thoughtfully create our own identities, lives and relationships around something authentic, instead of adopting the various moulds on offer.  Those moulds are pushed at you from all around – by consumer society, by politics, by religion, by culture, by your family, by your peers – and to adopt your own thing instead is generally not a popular option, and you’re likely to experience blowback from the pushers of moulds.

This can be recursive – groups of people may form as a protest against the commonly peddled moulds, and then create their own moulds.  You see this in ever-splintering organised religion, you can see it even in some parts of the counterculture – hippies with hippie moulds, punks with punk moulds and so on.  The urge to act like a lemming is very strong indeed, for a lot of people.

So we need stories, and we need songs, and we need art that shows us our own tragedy, and that also shows us alternative universes to our own.  Not moulds, mind you; nothing one-size-fits-all – but alternative universes, alternative possibilities, alternative ideas, from which we can dream up our own.

…more next time! 😀

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