Welcome. Happy Friday.
With this post we begin our ‘’Blogging the Cure’’ lyric analysis project. We expect this to become global. So far as we can see, there have been a number of Cure biographies, but very few attempts to take their lyrics as an oeuvre per se. So let’s do it.
Our intro post has covered the basics (see below).
We should say a few words about alternative music in general, perhaps, and why we think that this is an artistic movement with global cultural implications. In brief, with modernism, ‘’classical music’’ and poetry both died. People stopped reading poetry almost entirely; by the 1970s, sales of new poetry were virtually nil. Also, with Philip Glass, etc., everyone stopped listening to classical music. So where did all of that talent go, which in earlier decades would have written symphonies, operas, or epic narrative poems? Well, that talent went into popular music. Those musicians who were lucky enough to be both great musicians (who could write catchy tunes, like all of the great composers), and also great poets (who could write great lyrics), and successfully combine these art forms, found that they were able to gain mass audiences, due in part to the new technology of the record player, and the radio, which broadcast recorded versions of these songs to millions.
We know that rock n roll started out lowbrow, but that already by the early 1960s, with Bob Dylan and others, that the genre turned into something potentially very significant. Bob Dylan has had literary critics analyze his lyrics. Well, it’s time for the next generation of critics to eulogize the generation after Dylan.
In Rock n Roll, or whatever you want to call popular music since the 1950s, there have been two main intellectually significant movements. The First was the ‘’hippie’’ movement, which began in the early 1960s and petered out in the early 1970s. After the Doors and the Beatles, there was a pause.
But the punk and post-punk movements, which gave rise to New Age, and Alternative proper, constituted a new wave of intellectually significant ‘’rock n roll’’ i.e., popular music whose lyrical ideas were significant enough to attract and hold the attention of the world’s most intelligent, discerning, and sophisticated people. Yes, Alternative Music was generally for ‘’smart’’ people, and educated people, adn sophisticated people, even if a lot of it was plainly fluff. Not all of it was. And for a long time, it was taken deadly seriously by many very culturally significant people – basically, right up until the time that Nirvana helped to over-popularize Alternative, meaning that the hipsters moved on.
So while the hippie movement in Rock has been taken incredibly seriously by baby boomer critics, so far, the generation that grew up listening to Alternative has not yet achieved positions of critical seriousness to the extent that they could convince the world that, yes, Alternative is a serious art form. This blog aims to help change that, to turn the tide, and reveal some of the ‘’secrets’’ that Alternative has had to offer.
Since we cannot blog all the lyrics of all the best bands at once, we will start with one iconic band. The Cure. The intro post talks a bit about why. But we will have plenty to say on this, while we blog the albums and songs.
So before we proceed, let’s lay some ground rules:
1) This will be done from the perspective of an intelligent reader/listener, coming across the lyrics, without specialized knowledge, except that of the critic of poetry, literature, art history, and music history.
2) This means, that the motifs which are common in the western canon, which will have influenced the milieu in which Robert Smith read, and wrote, will be seen as the tapestry against which these lyrics have been written, and against which it is proper to judge them. Robert Smith often acknowledges writers such as Camus and Kafka, for example, who are also an integral part of this tradition, as his inspirations.
3) That being said, Robert Smith’s own interpretation of these lyrics will be treated with a grain of salt. Usually, poets don’t interpret their own lyrics, for a reason: they want to keep them open, because they realize that lyrics mean something to the public, often for reasons other than what they intended. Robert has been careful to keep interpretations open, but, has nonetheless been asked countless times about the meaning of his lyrics. Often, his own recollections about this or that song, at a given moment, can force a reading of lyrics which are clearly open to other interpretations.
4) This means, that while there are some official interpretations on the Cure website, etc, that these will not necessarily be used, unless they give an insight that the critic finds interesting.
5) This also means that the interpretation will not assume specialized knowledge, i.e., that the critic has followed every fanzine interview with Robert Smith since the song was first published. A lot of this interpretation, even by the author, might not actually be all that enlightening about what the song means in context of the album, as we will see.
We will first introduce an album, briefly. Then talk about the first song. The lyrics will be provided, followed by commentary. When we get to the end of an album, we will post an additional post providing commentary for the album as a whole. As we progress, album commentaries will tie together what we have done thus far.
So with those groundrules in place, let’s go through all of The Cure’s albums.
The first is Three Imaginary Boys.