Maybe it was youthful exuberance or perhaps it was the fact that the band itself was not pulling all the strings, Three Imaginary Boys
is not only a very strong debut, but a near oddity (it's an admittedly "catchy" record) in the Cure catalogue. More poppy and representative of the times it was made that any other album during their long career, Three Imaginary Boys is a semi-detached bit of late-'70s English pop-punk. Angular and lyrically abstract, its strong points are in its utter simplicity. There are no dirges here, no long suites, just short bursts of energy, and a rather strange cover of Hendrix's "Foxy Lady." For some, this is the last good Cure record, many fans of this album being in no way prepared for the sparse emptiness and gloom that would be the cornerstone of future releases. For the most diehard Cure-head, however, it's an interesting side note, hard to place in the general flow of the band's discography. Cure leader Robert Smith has voiced many times over his mixed feelings about the record, most notably the cover art, (the three "representative" appliances on the cover, the lack of a real track listing -- all the songs are represented with arty type pictures -- and in no real order) and the production, which at times is admittedly a little muddy, but even that lends it a certain youthful charm. What the Cure would do next wasn't entirely obvious to the listener of this album, but there are some definite hints. --Chris True, All Music Guide
A fine year for alienation, 1979. The Clash made the apocalyptic London Calling; Manchester's Joy Division debuted with the brutally despairing Unknown Pleasures; Gerry Dammers and co. set the Midlands' malaise to a ska beat with The Specials. Meanwhile, in darkest Crawley, 20-year-old Robert Smith was forging his own take on the post-punk zeitgeist. Twenty-five years on, and in a beautifully repackaged edition, Three Imaginary Boys stands as one of that year's most audacious albums.
Forget about The Cure's later wallowings in gothic gloom and drawn-out suffering. After dark, Fiction Records' boss Chris Parry smuggled his budget-lite band into the studio where The Jam were recording All Mod Cons by day. Smith and the boys used that band's equipment to make midnight hay. From declamatory opener "10.15 Saturday Night", through the power-pop of "Grinding Halt" and the 999-sounding "Foxy Lady" to the lyrically abstract "Fire In Cairo" and psychedelia-tinged title track, TIB maintains a Japanese-water-torture insistence.
Recorded practically live over three nights with few over-dubs, the album is stark, angry and strafed with Smith's urgent guitar. Punk's predecessors and contemporary nightmares made it into the mix - "Object" evokes Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie; "Subway" could be sister to The Jam's "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight". Parry and engineer-cum-producer Mike Hedges gave the collection an icy veneer that upset Smith in 1979, but now feels starkly reflective of its moment.
Disc 2 of this deluxe edition contains twenty previously unreleased Cure rarities from 1977-1979. Home and studio demos track the development of many TIB tracks and of others like "Boys Don't Cry"; out-takes and live versions further mark the band's evolving sound. Smart cover notes reveal the album's genesis and Smith's own thoughts. Exciting, mascara-free and surprisingly upbeat, Three Imaginary Boys captures a key British talent let off the leash for the first time. It also helps recolour a band best known for inky melancholy. Available only in black? On this evidence, The Cure's music was much more than that. --Simon Morgan
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