By: Eric Greenwood
Arbitrary and somewhat unrepresentative, the new Greatest Hits package by The Cure is inessential for fans new or old, even if you buy the limited edition double disc that includes acoustic versions of all the songs. With two retrospective collections already on the shelves (Standing On A Beach- The Singles, and Galore, respectively), The Cure"s new Greatest Hits release screams "contractual obligation" without the slightest hint of irony or regret. Robert Smith has long since given up guarding the legend or mystique of his monolithic creation, so shameless over-saturation of the market is par for the course at this point.
No matter what questionable direction Robert Smith lured his bandmates in the 1990"s, The Cure always had a stellar string of hits to fall back on live. They are classic songs ranging in emotion and technique from na"ve pop angst ("Boys Don"t Cry") to dark pop angst ("A Forest"), to just pop ("In Between Days), and finally to abusurdist pop (Why Can"t I Be You?)- songs that can"t be marred by lightweight releases [like remix albums (Mixed Up) and boring live discs (Show, Paris)] that would likely call into question any other band"s previous brilliance. Robert Smith knows he"s bullet-proof as far as his repertoire of singles goes, so another greatest hits release is an excuse to keep some thin blood flowing through the old horse as well as an excuse to squash "break-up" rumors by adding two "new" songs.
Don"t you hate it when bands tack on new shit to their greatest hits albums? Kind of contradicts the title, doesn"t it? How can two new songs be considered greatest hits? They haven"t had time to stand the test of time or even become hits. Maybe it"s just wishful thinking. Can"t blame them for that, I guess. One of the new "greatest hits" featured, "Cut Here", is actually one of the better singles the band has released in a decade, as typically Cure-sounding as it is. Robert Smith has created his own brand of clich". It"s impossible to mistake this song as anything but The Cure with those retro-1980"s keyboards, those cadenced and effects-laden guitars, that gloomy yet melodic bass line, and, of course, that pouty voice- all ingredients of almost any Cure song you can name off the top of your head.
It"s a decent little pop song that unfurls in a dreamy minor key until it hits the quasi-chorus, where Smith employs some embarrassingly cutesy lyrical ticks: "so dizzy Mr. Busy – too much rush to talk to Billy/
all the silly frilly things have to first get done." I can"t fully endorse the song"s merit with such a blatant misstep (not to mention the split infinitive), but, man, the keyboards sound good. Oh, well. Maybe the next one. The other new one, "Just Say Yes", is a duet with Saffron from Republica (collaboration has never been Smith"s forte). Their voices blend well together, and the band actually takes a bona fide stab at a new musical direction- the likes of which we haven"t seen since the release of "Let"s Go To Bed" pissed off all the goths back in 1982. Daft lyrics ensure the failure of this song too, but it"s a respectable effort.
I"ll never complain about having to sit through anything by The Cure that was recorded before 1990. In other words, the first two-thirds of the disc are top notch, if you don"t already own all this stuff. It"s anything post-Disintegration where chinks in the band"s armor start to reveal themselves. Thankfully, only three songs represent the Wish to Wild Mood Swings era (1992-1996)- the lowest point in the band"s history without question. The band"s last album, 2000"s semi-rejuvenating Bloodflowers, is conspicuously unrepresented. I dare say the singles off Bloodflowers are easier to swallow than the likes of the rancid mush off Wish ("High", "Friday I"m In Love"), or the forced and boring retread off Wild Mood Swings ("Mint Car").
The most astonishing thing about this collection is the fact that so many songs are missing. Where"s "The Caterpillar", or "Fascination Street", or even "Killing An Arab?" You can"t say they only included songs that were technically "hits" by charting standards because "Boys Don"t Cry" was a flop when it was released. And, honestly, how high did "A Forest" chart back in 1980? Regardless, this collection is like the America Online of greatest hits albums; it"s for people who don"t know any better. The ploy of tacking on a bonus disc of horrid acoustic versions (if you saw the band"s Unplugged session for MTV in 1990 then you are fully aware how terrible The Cure can sound acoustically) of good songs should not entice long time fans to go against their better judgement and plonk down the cash for this utter waste of plastic.