While some of The Cure faithful may feel aggrieved by the absence - 'A Forest' notwithstanding - of tracks from their gloomiest period (Faith, Seventeen Seconds, Pornography), the more casual listener will find much to enjoy here. Having had a big Cure phase in my teens, I might quibble that the Boys Don't Cry/Three Imaginary Boys era is under-represented. 'Jumping Someone Else's Train' and 'Killing An Arab', for instance, would have been preferable to some of the relatively non-descript material post-'Friday I'm In Love'. It seems odd also given how fashionable angular post-punk has been in the 00s to skimp on this early period, but ultimately you can't fault this as an introduction to the band.
What is great about this colllection is that The Cure had a habit of reinventing themselves and releasing their most resonant and accessible material as singles. This is not to say that they were a singles band - far from it, your next purchase ought to be 'Disintegration' if you don't own it already - but that this captures the band at their most varied, eccentric best. Whereas some Best-Ofs can seem fairly by-the-numbers, soulless experiences, 'Greatest Hits' is a joy for its vivid eclecticism.
Despite their reputation (not always unfounded) for bleak introspection, 'Greatest Hits' reveals Robert Smith to be one of the best pop songwriters of his generation. 'In Between Days', 'Close To Me', 'Just Like Heaven' are pop perfection, while 'A Forest' and 'Lullaby' harnesses the band's predilection for acid-spiked paranoia in a universably accessible form. Meanwhile the deranged, off-kilter pop of 'The Lovecats' and 'The Caterpillar' straddles the unlikely territory somewhere between these two poles: too saccharine to be goth, too bonkers by most pop tastes. Then you have the raw energy of 'Boy's Don't Cry' and the comparatively lush and expansive pop sensibility of 'Lovesong' and 'Pictures of You'. Thankfully, the collection is also chronological, so you get (almost) the whole Cure story - and a fantastic journey it is.