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A Smith solo album to bridge a gap.....
on 31 December 2003
This is almost not a Cure album in the sense that Robert Smith plays all the guitars and bass and 99% of the keyboards (according to the Lol Tolhurst VS The Cure royalties court case which Tolhurst lost because the judge agreed he had contributed basically nothing after giving up drums to become the bands "keyboard player").
The only other musicians to appear are Andy Anderson on drums (who had appeared on The Lovecats and played live with the band for about a year) and the awesome newly-installed guitarist Porl Thompson, who sadly doesn't even play guitar on this record - just a little bit of saxaphone on one song !!!!
The album starts off with what continues to this day to be a classic live opening track, Shake Dog Shake – a track I guess best described as a post-punk rock tune (not a post punk-rock tune if that makes any sense?!). It’s much better live where it’s played a lot harder, I feel the mix on the album does the song an injustice, but it’s still good.
Bird Mad Girl harks back to the early days of the Three Imaginary Boys album with it’s guitar pop sensibilities, but also gives a clue as to what the band would come up with a year later (i.e. the extreme jangly-guitar pop of Inbetween Days, etc).
Wailing Wall is an interesting hark back to the Pornography album’s sound but the eastern-tinged keyboards sound a bit out of place with the rough-edged sound of the rest of the song and harsh drumming. Best put in the file marked “experiment” I think.
Give Me It (featuring Thompson’s saxaphone) is similar to Shake Dog Shake in that it could have been an excellent heavy rocker (the hard drumming is superb on this song) but sadly the guitars are mixed too low and with too much treble for the song to sound anything other than irritating on the ears !! (Perhaps that was the intention knowing The Cure…).
Dressing Up is a lovely song with a slightly funky element, spoilt ever-so-slightly by Smith’s over the top (pardon the pun) copying of Billie McKenzie’s (R.I.P) crazy vocal style. This is another of the album’s tracks which translates really well live.
The Caterpillar is a tune that nobody but The Cure could ever write, kinda like Marc Bolan’s crazy accoustic-guitar-with-bongo’s era except without the cheesy glam sound.
Piggy In The Mirror is another awesome sounding song with fantastic instrumentation and a beautiful flamenco-guitar solo, just Smith’s crazy vocal’s get on your nerves a bit !! Don’t get me wrong, I love his voice on 99% of The Cure’s recordings but for some reason on this album he’s got a McKenzie obsession that he just couldn’t shake.
The Empty World must rank as perhaps The Cure’s worst ever song, it really is so bad. Nobody likes to hear any guitar band making records with military drumming and military-esque riffs on keyboards. Just horrible.
Bananafishbones is just pure acid soaked craziness. All those bands in the late 1980’s like Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses and Primal Scream who used to boast about their drug intake while making records that were as plain as day just make me laugh when you hear records like Bananafishbones. Now, THIS song was most certainly written and recorded on drugs !!!! Whether that was a good or bad thing….well, it’s certainly not Purple Haze, but worth a listen to any interested ear – particularly to Barrett-era Floyd fans !!!!
Final song is title track The Top which doesn’t seem to go anywhere fast but eventually gets to a bit of an interesting hook. It’s just a bit too slow to hold a lot of attention over the whole song.
If you’re in the business of investing heavily in The Cure’s back catalogue then put this album way down your list or you may end up never buying another Cure album again !!!!
All in all, this is a fun album with some excellent songs. The only real negative is Smith’s wild vocal style which he has rarely used since this record. No doubt in his drug-addled mind he probably thought he sounded like Pavarotti while recording this album, but….no he doesn’t at all.
Only buy this if you’ve bought-up nearly all the rest of The Cure’s studio albums – or perhaps if you are really mad yourself then you might just want to buy it right away.
Your choice really !!!!