Check us out now... two weeks in a row... our weekly feature devoted to the brilliance of The Cure and the way their music has and continues to influence, inspire, and affect us is actually, you know, weekly! I hope I haven't jinxed us. Heather leads us off with another song from Disintegration while I've chosen one of my favorite b-sides.
I know "Pictures Of You" is supposed to be a sad song but it makes me incredibly happy and peaceful all the while a little wistful and nostalgic. It's a breakup dedication that is poignant, ripe with visuals and made my perpetually broken teenaged heart swell with gratitude and sadness that I was finally understood.
I also know I've been picking a lot of songs off Disintegration lately, probably because it's the album that was most important in my life for my early teens when no one understood me and I was madly in love with the perfect boy every three weeks or so. Between The Cure, The Smiths/Morrissey and Skid Row my teen angst was firmly acknowledged and tended to from beginning to end.
I won't really get into the driving bass, expertly played guitar and chimes that are in "Pictures Of You" because it's just a continuation of the brilliance we'd come to expect from The Cure at this point. Not to say it's not special or shouldn't be acknowledged it's just the power for me lies in the lyrics.
1990 was a big year in my young life. I was 15, just transferred to a very small private school after nine years in the public school system and even though it was only 10 minutes from my home I was terribly homesick for my friends. In high school your world is very small and the majority of your socializing is done at school. I felt isolated and removed from these people I'd seen every day since elementary school.
Enter tall, handsome, mysterious and all of 17 and my new school was starting to look less dreary. It was an immediate connection and friendship that resulted in hours of phone calls, "accidental" hand grazes, stolen glances, secret notes passed in class and the accelerated heartbeats when you look over and catch him watching you. It was young love and it was perfect. Until it wasn't anymore.
That's when Robert Smith and company saved my life with the lyrics:
"If only I'd thought of the right words
I could have held on to your heart
If only I'd thought of the right words
I wouldn't be breaking apart all my pictures of you."
...which I obsessed over and haunted me for months. I was 16 by the time things came to an end and it truly felt like the end of life, as I knew it. This song was my anthem and every time I'd hear "Remembering you, how you used to be" I'd cry a little and relive it all over again as teenage girls like to do. I showered, exercised, fell asleep and woke up to this song, it was keeping me alive.
Then one morning I woke up, pressed play and it was less like a punishment and more like a warm, comforting hand on my shoulder. The familiar sting was there but fleeting and felt less sad and more like a badge I should wear proudly. I felt confident, strong and a little more ready to conquer the next boy that wandered into my path. I remember thinking this is what growing up feels like. I lost a piece of my innocence in that exchange but, I was supposed to, that's how life works. Love, lose, learn...repeat.
I love B-Sides and so does Robert Smith. Smith's musical influences were absorbed via radio and vinyl and tells us he distinctly remembers buying 45 rpm singles and listening to the B-side first in the liner notes of Join The Dots, a 4-CD collection of B-sides and non-LP tracks from The Cure's magnificent career.
Heather's love affair with The Cure started when she was young and she came of age to these songs and albums. I came to them later and listened to many of their signature albums long after they'd been released. I had no idea their deep catalog was this deep! My music collection boasts many box sets and Dotsis one of my favorites. It does exactly as the title suggests and then some. It connects the albums and singles and draws a perfect arc of the band's career. I also think of it as an alternate story of the band as many of these songs could've just as easily made records. Some of these songs could have been assembled to be additional records themselves. These are the records that almost were.
I intentionally did not go back to read Smith's recollection of "A Chain Of Flowers" so that I can tell you I have no idea how this song didn't make Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me other than to say it was already a 17-track record and eventually you do actually run out of room. I can't tell you which song I'd replace with "Flowers" but it still seems borderline criminal this song wasn't a part of that record or held over and made part of Disintegration. It actually has more in common sonically with Disintegration, which may explain why it didn't make Kiss and served as an indication of where the band would go for those who bought the "Catch" single when it was issued.
I love the cinematic soundscape, Smith's inimitable, ethereal guitar-synth texture, and the evocative title. This is one of those songs I can't explain yet I understand. I can hear each word, take them apart, put them together, and know what the song is about right up until someone asks me, "What's this one about?" Some lines resonate deeply and some barely register but when taken whole against this sonic tapestry, I'm transported to another place. There are a lot of heralded bands who will never write anything this beautiful and for Robert Smith, this was an extra B-side. How is that even possible?