The Cure
Three Imaginary Boys
2004
C+



which one did you identify with most; the posh lamp, the sporty fridge or the scary vacuum cleaner? Twenty five years have passed since the original UK release of the enigmatically-sleeved Cure debut Three Imaginary Boys. Now, as part of an extensive reissue assault on the wallets of obsessive collectors everywhere, it’s making a shocking pink return. US audiences not wishing to engage in expensive import hijinks previously had to make do with the hit-singlified hybrid Boys Don’t Cry album, but now they too can enjoy the tracklisting as god intended. And, as if by way of belated compensation for this former injustice, God has also included a bonus disc of era-specific singles, demos, live tracks and oddness. For does it not say in Corinthians 15:12, “And lo, he didst walk amongst you, distributing long-overdue reissues with copious amounts of extra material to the blind children”? I think you will find that it does.

Even if you don’t know any blind children, you can probably still enjoy this release without risking temple-splitting retribution. As well you might, because it finds The Cure in fresh-faced form. Always something of an oddity in the back catalogue, this is a record that owes more to the wiry, frenetic antics of The Buzzcocks and their ilk than it does to the oppressive reverb and distinctive guitar delay which would typify later efforts. However, many of Mr Smith’s favourite lyrical topics are already present and correct in various undeveloped forms, accompanied by the sounds of an eager trio keen to impart their jittery angst-pop vision. These notable attendees are only too happy to perk up as their names are called from the thematic register; so who’s here?

You’ll be able to see hands pushed to the sky by all manner of differing perspectives on a love gone horribly wrong (“10.15 Saturday Night”, “It’s Not You”, “Object”), creeping horror (“Subway Song”), existential concerns (“Grinding Halt”, “Three Imaginary Boys”) and handy advice about an excellent special offer on a packet of icing sugar (“So What”). For those who prefer their cover versions on the knottier side of ropey, “Foxy Lady” gets playfully mangled in a one-off vocal extravaganza from Michael Dempsey. But the sumptuous desert daydream of “Fire in Cairo” makes up for any lingering ill-will.

Yet bad feelings evidently remain on the bonus disc. Every extra track present on Boys Don’t Cry makes a welcome appearance, save for “Killing An Arab”—an understandable but frustrating omission. Presumably no-one wanted to painstakingly explain the philosophical context all over again, but it seems tricky to justify the decision to ditch the band’s debut single from this release. The highly dodgy (but obviously ridiculous) “See The Children” was no doubt excluded for similar reasons of taste in these paedo-hysteric times.

Pleasingly, pretty much every other presentable demo, home recording or studio out-take seems to have been included for instant consumption by rabid Cure completists. This reissue campaign appears to have been designed for minimal overlap with the recent Join The Dots set, which is either wonderfully helpful or deviously cynical—depending on how you wish to spin it. In any case, an interesting early perspective is provided by the performances being of a somewhat rawer quality than ultimately appeared on record (“I Want To Be Old”, “Heroin Face” and the Chestnut Studio demos come across as especially energised). More curiously, the session out-take “Winter” sounds as if it would sit more comfortably amidst the sparser 17 Seconds era.

Whether you rush out to embrace this reissue will, as in most cases, really depend on how desperately you crave the additional inclusions. Crucially, the layers of dense fug present on countless bootleg and mp3 versions of these songs have been carefully removed, leaving things sounding as fresh as could really be expected. This could well be the deal-clincher, if you’re not left too disheartened by the lack of “Killing An Arab”, “Desperate Journalist” and any others you can potentially reel off the top of your Cure-devoted head. Exciting times are surely ahead if similarly stuffed bonus discs are included with forthcoming ‘deluxe editions’ of 17 Seconds, Faith and Pornography. Meanwhile, Three Imaginary Boys sets a solid benchmark.



Reviewed by: Peter Parrish
Reviewed on: 2004-12-13
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