Updated: Sep 18
Although these early pioneers of alternative rock may not have begun receiving the due commercial success they were due until the mid 80’s, looking back now, alongside Disintegration, Boy’s Don’t Cry, the US release of The Cure’s debut, Three Imaginary Boys sits atop of the pedestal of The Cure’s album releases. I would go a step further and call Boys Don’t Cry the finest album by The Cure. Although those in The UK, may take a slight confusion with holding this album apart from Three Imaginary Boys, as far as those on the other side of the pond were concerned, Boys Don’t Cry was the debut album of The Cure being released in 1980 holding some of the bands finest tracks, which were subsequently left out of the British release such as Jumping Someone Else’s Train, Plastic Passion and of course the album-titled track Boys Don’t Cry.
First and foremost, nothing sounded like The Cure at the time of the release, apart from perhaps some subtle similarities to The Talking Heads debut album, or Unkown Pleasures by Joy Division. Exemplifying a developing form of what would by the mid 80’s be known as a “jangly guitar style,” The Cure took the guitar to completely new level pairing bright and momentous guitar with some darker lyrics. The funny thing is though, if you looked at live performances of The Cure from the mid-80’s on, they’re known for their dark clothes and black eye make-up essentially being the epitome of gothic rock, a genre they can be largely credited for creating. Around the time of the American debut though, they looked like what you would expect a modern indie band to look like and the contents of the record are what you would expect to hear from a really good indie band as well.
Going back to the guitar work, wow is Robert Smith a fantastic guitar player capable of developing incredibly catchy, memorable and musically impressive guitar riffs heard no better than on perhaps the finest track on the record, Jumping Someone Else’s Train. The fact a single guitarist developed a layered, yet so momentous guitar riff at the time, was a testament to what was to come in indie rock over the next 10 years. To see Robert play that lick live and nail it, is a true sight to see. The praiseworthy guitar work doesn’t stop there though. Smith again DROPS a haunting and powerful guitar riff on the listener at about the two minute mark of Two Imaginary Boys in what I would call, the coolest moment on the album.
In listening to Fire in Cairo, you have to ask yourself if Johnny Marr of The Smiths took a subtle page out of Robert Smith’s book in creating The Smith's iconic, bright, catchy and jangly guitar licks. Regardless, on this track Smith and bassist Michael Dempsey encapsulate very subtle political lyrics, with beautiful guitar work and percussive forward driving bassline building this song as one for the ages.
Although this record is a lot more closely associated with the post-punk movement alongside the growing popularity of alternative rock, the seeds of gothic-rock were certainly being sewn with demanding, dark lyrics. Tracks like Another Day and Subway Song are undoubtedly dark, more gothic songs. Speaking to Subway Song, be ready to jump clear out of your seat with about 30 seconds left… Gets me every time.
The brilliance of this record can often get overshadowed by the massive amount of commercial success and airplay The Cure received by the late 80’s but I can confidently say that this is them at their best, if you have an ear for indie rock more so than an ear for say, gothic rock. No disrespect to their later work, as The Cure is one of the finest alternative bands of all time (seventh to be exact by our calculation), but this album flew under the radar for too many people thinking of it little more than the album-titled track. The lyrics are memorable, just about every song deserves a throw on repeat and the tightness of the band is top-notch. This record foreshadowed so much of the brilliance to come in alternative and indie rock throughout the 80’s and into the 90’s cementing it in the ever-expanding book of alternative rock.