1981 ~ ME Sounds (Germany)
Is there a life after restoration? Or are The Cure the forerunners of a reintroduction of the 70's?
Neo-fatalism-anti-chic or post-punk will tear us apart
There are many ways to start this story. With a memory of a hot summer night in a filthy pub somewherere in 79, when the sound out of a cassette player immediately got more important than the drinks or the provincial computer games.
By Diedrich Diederichsen
But the bartender said it was Reggae (he was an air-head anyway) and no one else could tell me who made this crystal clear, disciplined-mean music. I tried to memorize parts of the lyrics "Don't try to talk to me / I won't listen to your lies / you're just an object in my eyes". Those exquisite melodies with their understatement made it easier and I remembered the sentence "we're imaginary boys" which later turned out to be "Three Imaginary Boys", the title of the first LP of the Cure.
Or let's start it like this: the shattered pre-war-subway from the airport to the central, the so-called Picadilly line, was juddering through London's suburbs (West Hounslow, South Ealing, Acton Town…). Two passengers from the short-distance flight Hamburg-London are sitting across from each other, talking in a BBC-Weather-Channel-English (translated into plain English): He: Yeah, those short flights.. they are okay when you're my age. But London-Singapore, you know my dear, if you're in Southeast Asia as much as I am, it'll get pretty gruelling. She: You haven't been to Bombay, have you? He: Of course, I lived there from 1961 till 1967. She: Really? You might know Clive Percy! He: But of course I do, he's a golf player as well. We've had a lousy team together, but it was a lot of fun…
Unbelievable, how fearless and self-pleased those two are yelling on the subway. Right next to them sits a shattered, maybe clue-sniffing, pale, long haired heavy-metal kid, wearing a fake leather jacket on its droopy body, full of anger because of those two self-pleased colonialist asses. But nothing's going to happen with that anger. It'll be drowned at the next Reading Festival and when the kid gets older, he'll satisfy this anger with transquilizer rock music. Now we're getting to the point…
"Dis Contree is upside down, mohn!" tells me a Rasta man who I met in Regents Park. "It seems pretty peaceful to me" – "That's the point; your so-called peace is only boredom which reigns here."
At the same park, three blitz-kids on their way to a party. I used to think that those Spandau-Ballet-Visage-fashion-clones are just an invention of English music magazines on the quest for a new look and it really seemed to work. The kids were exitingly picking on their clothes, one of them even presenting an ss-costume with an original swastika armband.
We're stuck in the middle of an epoche of restoration but Reagan (at the time when I was writing this down, he was laying in a hospital, making grating jokes) and Thatcher don't even have the niveau of the sovereign Metternich ("Fürst Metternich"): they are acting paralyzed and stupid around the dumb crisis management in their countries and their youth is only interested in fashion and the dumbest leisure activities since the invention of the yo-yo. And the music: 90 % of the active new bands are only concerned about the reflection of the neurotic-narcisstic grow-up-ego in lyrics and music. The funny thing about that is, all that egocentrism only seems to be surounding ideologic-confused and unstable ego's without tradition and any moral concepts. This directness is what appealed about the first Cure LP. Anger, rigidness, malice, dissipation, dolefulness, fear, rebellion – the essentials of rock poetry – but without the precast of a good vs. evil or image-based way to think. No egoistic-bourgoise songwriter or author piece of cake, but a one to one conversion of real distress. So, The Cure were new at the beginning.
Like many of their colleagues and congenialities, The Cure couldn’t keep their autonomity and flew into vage atmosphere. Which means: if narcistic music isn't made out of narcistic tones, if it can't get copied, it turns into reactional traditions. The contribution to imagined consciousness of the modern human only achieves the exactness if it formulates the exemplarily-individual historical-distinctive epoche. And at that time, the Cure started to write Camus' "L'Etranger": a piece of literature, which I always hated. Camus, totally overrated anyway, the sentimental little brother of Sartres, tries in this novel to turn the leading part of this story into a philosophical construction, naturally abstract, an art figure, "the existentialist" par excellence, so to use for a piece of art. An undertaking that's absolutely un-arty because it's not trying to phrase the aesthetic truth, but it's content with it's designed truth and seems so tense.
But the novel is favoured by German classes damaged high school kids because the "what-is-the-writer-trying-to-say" problem is solved in the first place: it's known from the beginning that the exemplaric existentialist should be summond which happens at the end. Tautology. And then the film with the sweating Mastroianni, who should have played the Torero instead of the "tenderly casualness". He becomes the advertising media for deodorant and the worst part of the film is when he's so out of formulistic existential casualness that the shows his sweat wet shoulder to the clichee-fascistic judge, who's just about to come to the decision of the death sentence.
Back to The Cure: so they turned "The Stranger" into music and called it "Killing An Arab", and the song wasn't so bad but the illness of the band already indicated itself: not enough self distance. This could have been a premise for true originality, but otherwise it's destroying the path to conclusion of what is good about yourself. You're making a truthful album. But for the second album it's not enough just to be true. You have to think about why this truth was good. The Cure say they want to keep making music about "moods" and grab into the variety of inwardness and knickknack traditions our occidentaly culture left us.
"This ongoing crisis / open up for our culture" sing "Die Schönsten" (Ruff and Weiss of "Die Geisterfahrer") and they are right. When I met The Cure in the office of their record company, they were reading their mail. A German fan wrote them, the song "A Forest" from their second album 17 SECONDS (which was much weaker than their first album) reminds him of Heinrich Heine (German poet, 1797-1856).
The Cure made a second album and the world turned even worse. Why do you only make music about depressions, depressive conditions, nights, loneliness etc.? Robert Smith, guitarist, singer and chief ideologist: "There are not many reasons to be happy. When I'm happy I enjoy the moment and don't worry about about it" – A song is more than just a message about how Robert Smith feels, it's about the choice of themes and topics, like the tree on the cover, kind of like ECM. Why is 17 SECONDS so much slower than THREE IMAGINARY BOYS? "It's much more difficult to turn moods into fast music. There is only so much spectrum of emotions who can be turned into fast music. Actually just hate and anger." – But your first album proofs the contrary – "I like the second album much better than the first one. I hate my voice when I sing like I did on the first record. I don't like music that jumps and bounces like on XTC. On FAITH (LP Numero Tres) are the songs who are much slower than anything we ever did before." – You played twice in Germany, in front of two totally different audiences. At the second concert, there were more people with long hair and beards than short hair, hair dye and that stuff.
"Yeah, it was the same here", says the drummer, "first we only had hardcore punks but then they got to know us and now we have a more versatile audience". Robert Smith: "Back then everything was called punk and today everyone's talking about the 'New Romantics", Spandau Ballet and bands like that. We don't wanna have anything to do with mainstream (I really want to finally meet a band that said "we are hip"!). We attract so many different kind of people."
Are you interested in them? "No, I don't care about my audience at all. If they like what we do, they should come and see us. If they don't, that's fine. But that doesn't mean that we have to get to know them. They shouldn't be interested in us as public figures either. I don't want to know when John Lydon's birthday is. That all doesn't mean anything at all. People just use music as a means for something else ( 'Who only understands music doesn't understand anything about music' – Eisler), we are just about music. We do let people come backstage after a concert, we are not inaccessible or arrogant, but we just can't go much further".
Subject: the artists responsibility. The effect of depressive music to kids in a country with a depressive mood. "One reason why we make depressive music is, that we don't want to lie. If you're playing a happy song live but you're feeling kind of depressed, you're lying. On the other hand, you can get sad very quickly, you just have to think one second, really think" (I have to laugh when I think), "you can express much more passion and feelings in a depressive mood" – "Why being happy anyway, maybe with 10 pints lager?" And the resigned kids should get even more resigned with those fluffy 19th century melodies? "On the contrary. Our music frees them from their feelings of resignation. You sit down and listen to music that matches your moods and afterwards you got rid of them." – "We interpret our songs with much more anger live. But you can't develop anger on command when you're in the studio, rather melancholy." – "You can't say sad songs glorify sadness. But you get the feeling that you're not the only one feeling like that which comforts you." Alright. I wouldn't have asked kept asking you about this, if you wouldn't have changed from freshness and aggressiveness to melancholy and romantic moods within the last two, three years. I see here a desolate country with a desolate spreading music. Is that the zeitgeist?
"No, why, the world has always been cruel. If you read the newspaper, everything's cruel except maybe the news about the royals. I sometimes think I wouldn't care if everything blows up one day. But sometimes I do care. It's always been like that. People die either because they're old or they die because of a gun shot or they're being beat to death. It's all the same: they die!".
They still called the new album of The Cure FAITH and after listening to it proves the path to British, meaning foggy dolour: monotone-chubby bass melodies, accords like "A Forest", a bit diversion. Boom music. Keyboards sound like the old Yes. Anyway, The Cure are honest and sincere. Who could have known anyway, that the "bleak wave" will end as classic inwardness, in weedheaded gloom? I do believe them that they like their new music better than their exciting start. It's music to get lost in. Music that even turns on musicians and makes them listen. And the boys are lucky the kids still like those continue rain moods in beautiful colours. This frees from reflecting and allows to those appreciated feelings. The Cure are on their way to Superstardom. But maybe they're way too honest for that and way too interesting.
1981 is so damn much like 1971
Thanks so much Nicole Neff for TRANSLATING.