on 21 August 2006
Perhaps one of my favourite Cure albums this, though essentially a solo effort from Robert Smith who at the time was teetering on the edge of thoroughly exhausted madness. It's kind of echoed in the music too, which at times displays Smith's more memorable and quirky song writing sensibilities, but at the same time is rather dark, twisted and schizophrenic. I guess this is the case with most Cure music, but above all this album pushes Smith's musical influences to the forefront considerably and personally I believe this to be a good thing!
So the overall feel is highly psychedelic, notably Shake Dog Shake, Piggy in the Mirror and Bananafishbones, the latter displaying most signs with its garagey drums and descending bass motif. And lets face it, with a title like that, which though has its origins in literature I believe, could be the name of a Captain Beefheart track. Piggy in the mirror also should be noted for its apparent use of Hammond Organ which to my knowledge you don't get much of in Cure music. This also lends it a 60's retro touch, which is most welcome.
The album also contains some of The Cure's most lovely and melodious moments such as Birdmad Girl and The Caterpillar. The former is so bright and breezy and perfectly poppy you smile, tap your foot and nod your head unfailingly with every listen. The Caterpillar meanwhile is probably the most 'acoustic sounding' track the band has produced - it skips along prettily like a butterfly (a deliberate move obviously), with fluttering acoustic strings and multi - layered percussion and again the melody is quite delicious! Also its one track in the Cure canon that wears a Nick Drake influence firmly on its sleeve, a great Smith influence that is rarely evident in the majority of the band's history.
A few curiosities are also chucked in the mix... Dressing Up, which suggests the era more than the majority of the album in it's sound, is an almost 80s sounding soul ballad. Smith's vocals cascade drunkenly over the top in a Billy Mackenzie like drawl, giving most evidence of his vocal experimentation across this set of songs. And preceding this track is the fierce Give Me it, which is one of the most angry and ferocious songs that the Cure has recorded, and given that the album proper previous to this was Pornography, that's saying quite a bit!
The second disc packaged with this deluxe edition has its fair degree of interest though I'm not sure how often it would be played. The demo versions are generally not dissimilar to the final versions but are mere sketches and feel incomplete... and let's face it not as good! This not being the case with all the reissues of course. The RS home demo of 10.15 Saturday Night on the Three Imaginary Boys Deluxe Edition has incredible charm for instance. But this doesn't really matter, this is worth getting for the main album and the packaging for the reissues is quite splendid too, and at the price it is at the moment is certainly well worth a purchase.
Extending on the territory of The Glove's 'Blue Sunshine' & 1983's 'The Lovecats' & 'Mr Pink Eyes', Robert Smith created 'The Top.' This was from a rather extreme period in his life when he found himself guitarist in The Banshees (who were also recording 'Hyaena') as well as frontman of the reborn-Cure from 'Let's Go to Bed'-onwards. He recorded this under the influence of psychedelics with a band that included long-time associate Porl Thompson, former drummer Lol Tolhurst, producer & later Johnny Hates Jazz/Natalie Imbruglia-associate Phil Thornally & drummer Andy Anderson (who would later play with the Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce). 'The Top' was rumoured to have been accidently recorded at the wrong speed - but I think these effects were deliberate, Smith manipulating his vocals and created a record that is one of the great acid-soundtracks (see 'Trout Mask Replica', 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn','Tago Mago', 'The Faust Tapes' & 'Easter Everywhere').
The 10-orignal tracks showcase the beginnings of that eclectic Cure-sound that would be expanded on over the following albums 'The Head on the Door' & 'Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me.' Live-favourite 'Shake Dog Shake' always sounds wonderful, like 'Pornography' on a Beefheart-trip it has the oddest lyrics and shows where Brett Anderson got his animal-fixation from! 'Birdmad Girl' is a gorgeous Latin-inflected acoustic joy - 1985's 'The Blood' would stem from here; 'Wailing Wall' advances on the territory of the Banshees' 'A Kiss in the Dreamhouse' & Smith's work with Steve Severin in The Glove. Compare this to 1987's 'The Snakepit' to see the difference between psychedelic Smith and the wine-inflected version a few years later!!
'Give Me It!!' is bizarre proto-metal, still one of Smith's most dirgey recordings and possibly an indication of looming madness! The mood shifts to the sublime 'Dressing Up', a song that turned up in live sets a few years later and is found on the 'Paris' live album. Smith seems to be playing with gender here, so an interesting record, as well as a fantastic pop song. The classic single 'The Caterpillar' is next, probably the peak of his psychedelic works, it's utterly ravishing and must have been a record that Bjork heard? This is followed by another long term live favourite 'Piggy in the Mirror', Smith's lyrics maybe responding to Sioux's 'Fat Bob'-jibe or the funhouse-reflection of himself the last year or so?
'The Empty World' sounds like a more psyched relative of the doomy Cure of 80-82, though any hint of that mood is broken by the sterling Beefheartian 'Bananafishbones' - a joyful glut of psychedelic rubbish. Finally the title track concludes the album proper, this isn't that far from the doomy Cure of yore, though the production/mix ensure the whoozy and dreamy dominate the gothic and morose downerness.
The second disc comes with 17 unreleased/hard to find tracks and out-takes including the mythical 'Ariel' (an influence on Ariel Pink) and 'Forever' - a song that Cranes would name an album after. There appears to be an early version of b-side 'A Man Inside My Mouth' as well as 'The Caterpillar's classic b-sides 'Happy the Man' and 'Throw Your Foot'- which were too great to leave off the album! I think 'The Top' has aged wonderfully, though its eccentric psychedelic nature will not appeal to everyone. It's sometimes tagged the worst Cure record, but I'd say that would probably be more true of 'Three Imaginary Boys' or 'Wild Mood Swings' (not that I think either are that bad!). An extremely welcome reissue and a record that shows where songs like 'Six Different Ways', 'Close to Me', 'If Only Tonight We Could Sleep', 'How Beautiful You Are', 'Like Cockatoos' & 'A Japanese Dream' would come from in the following years...
on 24 May 2004
I can never understand why this album gets such negative reviews. People often refer to it as one of the weaker Cure albums but i consider it to be better than a lot of their other eighties output and considerably better than anything they produce in the 90's. There are some really strong tracks on The Top: Shake dog shake is powerful and brooding, Bananafishbones is deranged and surreal and The Caterpillar is one of their best singles by far. This album was the Cure's last piece of work that had that hard edge that characterised their early albums. Although later albums worked better as a whole, none of them matched the intensity and weirdness of The Top. While some people may consider the lyrics to be too off the wall and the music to be unfocused and "wonky", i think it is these qualities that make it such a compelling listen.
on 17 August 2006
I started slowly collecting Cure albums back in 1996 but I held off when I heard these remastered reissues would be coming out. The Top was the only Cure album I didn't previously own, mainly because I have seen some very negative reviews for it.
Maybe it helps that I've embraced the rest of The Cure's work before coming to this because the variety and psuedo-psychedelic nature of this album does not come as any kind of shock having heard all their other albums.
Let me say that this album is a joy from beginning to end showcasing the very best of Robert Smith's songwriting skills. It takes the sound of previous single The Lovecats and makes it even crazier. That's no bad thing though. There are some true classic Cure moments on here, particularly the stunning Birdmad Girl and Dressing up.
Having listened to this CD a few times, I can say there isn't one weak track on it. In fact I would say that I prefer this to the follow-up albums of The Head on The Door & Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me; both excellent albums in their own right.
Eclectic, Vibrant and refreshing, especially compared to so much of the dross that is around today, I'd recommend this to anyone, especially Cure fans who were previously wary of buying it.
on 27 March 2008
This is a fascinating album that really has more in common with Smiths side-project, The Glove, and even siouxsie and the banshees than the Cure. The Cure are either bouncy pop tunes or long meandering musical pieces of atmosphere set to depressing lyrics. Well this is kinda neither.
The music is very varied. It somehow manages to contain the happiest joyous moments (dressing up, the caterpillar) and the most dark and despairing in all the Cure's repertoire (shake dog shake, the top), as well as highly experimental explosions of anger and paranoia (Give me it, bananafishbones) and some bizarre 'is it happy is it sad' pop songs which are anything but pop (bird mad girl, bananafishbones, piggy in the mirror).
Robert Smith was quite clearly in a strange place mentally when he was making this record. It is evident in the music, lyrics and vocal performance. It's all over the place, purposefully. Either restrained like in wailing wall, paranoid in give me it, completely insane in dressing up.
This is weirdly, my favourite Cure album. It's one that tends to get ignored, but in the 80s there was so little of this kind of psychedelia, it belongs to a genre unto itself. 80's pop psychedelia revival. Sometimes fluffy and bouncy and sometimes heavy and suicidal, ALWAYS Quirky, The Top - delivers!
on 16 August 2006
This is the real thing, this is a true classic. The Best album of the eighties. And by far the best Cure album! Beautifully complex and Colourful, Dark and sweet. Amazing lyrics and music, more honest and thorough then any Smiths or any crap new British band!
A great package
on 2 April 2013
a very strange and an odd turn for The Cure- after their gloomy trio Seventeen Seconds, Pornography and Faith, suddenly emerges The Top.
With Robert Smith doing almost all the instruments on his own, finding himself without Simon Gallup and lol just being their for the lyrics for Piggy in The Mirror and their only single The Caterpillar- Smith comes up with even more self hating songs, but with a very catchy and likeable tunes such as Shake Dog Shake and Birdmad Girl.
my personal fave is Dressing Up which has a brisk turn to a slow and hallucinagenic beat- I think its a love song- but it is fun to listen to.
The only song I can't stand is Give Me It, but the rest are fairly reasonable.
My interpretation of the title of the album is because he mentions 'The Armies' a few times during the album, and if you've heard Charlotte Sometimes (found on Deluxe edition of Faith- or YouTube) , you'll find he based the song on a book which is set around that era and even has some references from the story, I was amazed to find as I listened to it and read the book around the same time.
it isn't an easy going album, but I enjoy it for the loud vocals and the insane tune to BananaFishBones which was a weird a completely Cureish song to hear.
on 7 December 2014
The Cure's fifth studio album is a curious mish mash of dark gothic tracks and more up tempo pop songs, which began on their previous release Japanese Whispers and would reach a stunning plateau on their next three studio releases, The Head On The Door, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and Disintegration.
Containing the chart topping singles The Love Cats and Caterpillar Girl, the other eight tracks are very good as well.
After this release the world lay at Robert Smith's feet and constant touring helped them break into America, South America and Asia, allowing them to become one of the biggest stadium acts of the 80's worldwide along with Depeche Mode and U2.
A very good four star release, only docked one star for a couple of weaker tracks and the fact it's not as consistent as their next three amazing albums.
on 22 August 2009
The Cure has always been known as an unusual band. Sometimes mad, sometimes silly, sometimes even full on creepy, but fifth album `The Top' is the bands crowning glory in the bonkers stake. Essentially a solo album by Smith, some friends and a boatload of hallucinogenic drugs, the album takes the listener into the distorted, childlike and often scary mind of the frontman and back again. While this is by no means the bands strongest release it still remains effectively unique, original and interesting- some factors that have been missing from their more recent output due to occasional repetition. The odd song presented here could fall under the `fan only' banner but there's still plenty to enjoy even for those with a shorter attention span. `The Caterpillar' is pure infectious pop at its best, opener `Shake Dog Shake' displays the bands heavier side well and closing title track `The Top' gives listeners the much expected (but never beaten) introspective and moody cure sound. Unorthodox as the ten tracks are they do manage to give an overview of Smith's various forms of eclectic song writing and with repeat listens should reward those who persist. Hardly the album they will be remembered for but an album that's not easy to forget.
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 !!!!