Top 7 Album Tracks – The Cure

The Cure have many faces and personalities, thanks to the creative vision of their leader, Robert Smith, who formed the band in 1978 and achieved instant acclaim in the British music press for the group’s stripped-down punk-inspired sound. They soon moved beyond this into darker realms with a trilogy of classic albums between 1980 and 1982 that would go on to influence genres such as darkwave, post-rock, gothic rock, and industrial, while also defining the identity of post-punk.

1982’s Pornography album would have finished most artists due to its inner turmoil and misanthropic despair, but Smith reinvented The Cure in 1983 as an artist that would make fun of the stereotypes levelled at their aesthetic, their audience, and their art. Beginning with iconic hits such as ‘The Love Cats’ and ‘Let’s Go to Bed’ and continuing throughout the decade with ‘In Between days’ and ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’, The Cure wrote some of the most playful pop songs of their era while delving into the deepest introspection for their albums. 1985’s The Head on the Door and 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me saw them walk the line between pop sensations and gloomy minimalists before returning to the melancholia of their early material for 1989’s landmark Disintegration LP. This marked the commercial and critical zenith of the band’s career and turned them into superstars in America, resulting in 1992’s Wish album storming the charts in the UK, US, and Australia.

Despite this, the 1990s were not as kind to The Cure, with the group releasing only one more album, Wild Mood Swings, which failed to achieve platinum status and wrestled with an uncertain direction. As he did in 1989, Smith retreated into solitude and returned with the 2000 LP, Bloodflowers, making no concessions to the music industry and releasing no singles for radio. It marked a return to form and looked likely to be the band’s last effort before the next wave of alternative artists of the early 2000s started name-checking The Cure and paying homage to their legacy. A high-profile comeback in 2004 under the production regime of Ross Robinson saw them venture into a heavier direction with noise rock and grunge influences co-existing alongside their sentimental pop meanderings. They continued this direction for 2008’s 4:13 Dream, but the group have released no further records since, meaning that the 2010s marked the first time The Cure failed to write anything in an entire decade. But perhaps the question is whether they need to create anything new after such a distinguished career.

These shortlists always create debate, and it’s almost impossible to whittle down The Cure’s best non-singles to just seven cuts. Therefore, we decided to limit the choices to one song per album for our final list, otherwise we could choose all seven album tracks from 1982’s Pornography LP or three consecutive songs from side B of 1989’s Disintegration.

These are the Scream Blast Repeat Top 7 album tracks by The Cure. Watch our video documentary below to get the most out of this feature.

7. ‘The Same Deep Water as You’ from Disintegration (1989)

Where do we start on The Cure’s best-selling and most iconic album that secured them superstar status in America and placed them at the top of the alternative music hierarchy? Disintegration is a record that achieves the rare feat of hitting new heights with each passing song on side B, and nowhere is this more evident than in the despondent fortitude of ‘The Same Deep Water as You’. Clocking in at nine minutes and twenty-two seconds, this pensive meditation on growing old in a shallow world that wears down the strongest of loving relationships, starts with a rumble of thunderous clouds and wind-swept rain and builds into a solemn rhythm of 100bpm with no chorus or change of key for the entirety of its existence. At the heart of this composition is Simon Gallop’s high-register bassline scything against the strings with the concentration of a stone mason as a recurring flourish of keyboard strings mourn between Robert Smith’s heart-felt verses.

“Can’t you see I try? /Swimming the same deep water as you is hard,” laments The Cure’s frontman in an aching lullaby voice that threatens to sever its notes from their tuneful sorrows. It’s a rarity in the band’s live set today, but many fans would welcome its return.

6. ‘If Only Tonight We Could Sleep’ from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)

The Cure’s 1987 double album is a desert island disc for the loyal fanbase and an acclaimed opus in mainstream circles. Perhaps nothing personifies the bipolar tumult of the band than this record. Next to the upbeat pop swing of ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ and the cuddly theatrics of ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’, we have dark introspective numbers like ‘Snakepit’ and the angst-ridden noise rock of ‘The Kiss’. But the most mystical song is track number four. ‘If Only Tonight We Could Sleep’ sees The Cure build on 1985’s The Head On the Door, where they first pioneered their favoured structure of writing a long intro with a significant chord shift and then repeating it for four isolated stanzas. In this case, they insert the song’s main motif of sampled sitars and Eastern drum percussion as if connecting each verse through ritual meditation. Robert Smith digs deep into his higher chest range and attacks the microphone with squirming fingers and tightened face remonstrations to unleash the pain of his words.

The Cure were post-rock before it became a recognised sub-genre, and this is the album where they laid down its foundations for others to tread with gratitude.

5. ‘Shake Dog Shake’ from The Top (1984)

“We slept all night in the virgin’s bed and dreamed of death and breathed like sick dogs,” pines Robert Smith in a lyric that continues to baffle people to this day. Extravagant drum fills and droning guitars form the backbone of this song as Smith pushes his voice to a higher range of angst and perfects his English home counties diction in a trademark melody. It’s one of the great nostril-flaring anthems in The Cure’s discography because of its agitated tempo and heroic performance on the drum stool from underappreciated jazz sticksman, Andy Anderson. Listen to the aggression and grandiose gestures of self-harm emanating from the microphone. Absorb the distorted power chords in their delay-heavy whisk and let them burrow into your chest. This is The Cure at their most sinister and ambiguous.

Still a staple of the band’s set list today, it’s the one outstanding track from their 1984 experimental album, The Top. Are you ready to wake up in the new blood and follow The Cure’s frontman to where the real fun is?

4. ‘Sinking’ from The Head on the Door (1985)

Is Robert Smith the realist Peter Pan of alternative music who cannot stand the idea of growing old? You’ll see him refer to his early twenties as a second adolescence of self-discovery and self-destruction. “I am slowing down as the years go by/ I am sinking/ So I trick myself like everybody else,” he declares in a sorrowful voice in this heart-felt piece of melancholy rock. Bassist, Simon Gallup, uses his plectrum to play a sliding groove in E Minor as sparse piano sprinkles and a steady mid-tempo snare hold everything together like string. It’s the first time we hear The Cure use keyboard string arrangements as the main melodic pulse in a song, but the despondent echo effects in Smith’s voice and naked honesty of his lyrics are what make you take a step back from your own life for a moment of self-reflection.

Look no further if you want an example of how the listener can share an epiphany with the artist.

3. ‘Want’ from Wild Mood Swings (1996)

It might be one of the most derided albums in their catalogue, but 1996’s bloated and eclectic effort is big on imagination and risk. You could argue that some of their most underrated tracks come from this LP. Opener, ‘Want’, is a magnificent piece of luscious goth-rock that unfolds like a song composition workshop for aspiring musicians. Listen how one simple three-chord guitar phrase at the higher end of the fretboard remains constant throughout as bass, drums, synthesiser, lead guitar and strings come together in patient formation for the main groove. This song has more layering than an onion before Smith emotes with the opening line of, “I’m always wanting more/ Anything I haven’t got/ Everything – I want it all/ I just can’t stop,” as if awakening the courage of every awkward loner in the world.

The Cure are at their best when they reveal the structure of the song before the first verse and avoid the need for a key change or shift to a chorus. ‘Want’ is right in front of you in the extended intro, in its minimalist intrigue, in its naked candour, and in the way it dies down at the end as effectively as it started.

2. ‘Faith’ from Faith (1981)

Robert Smith won’t deny that Joy Division had a profound impact on The Cure’s music, and this bass-driven title-track from album number three could grace any of the two studio efforts from Manchester’s finest. ‘Faith’ claims to preserve a modicum of hope in a bleak introspective world, but its tempo and fragile calm are as liberating as the freedom that comes with no longer caring about life. Simon Gallup’s mournful bass notes guide you through the sorrows of standing in the rain as you try to process the importance of a loved one’s passing. “Catch me if I fall/ I’m losing hold/ I can’t just carry on this way,” discloses Smith in a voice that can no longer hear its echoes. His guitar does little more than accent the therapeutic basslines with single note delay effects as he raises the levels of human despondency with each verse. There is no chorus, no melodic hook to cling to, no pause from the solemn and steady drumbeat, and no respite from the ubiquitous wall of maudlin anxiety.

This is the song where Robert Smith discovered his true singing voice and verbalised his emotions as the dominant instrument in the mix. See if you can remain stoic as he articulates his desperation with the immortal lines: “Please say the right words / Or cry like the stone white clown / And stand lost forever in a happy crowd.”

1. ‘One Hundred Years’ from Pornography (1982)

The Cure’s 1982 album nearly killed the band. Literally. Or so it felt like for Robert Smith, who assumed he would end the band’s tour and quietly die at home in seething apathy. Life can be easier to navigate if we bring the reality of our death forward and fixate on it. Then, as the opening line to ‘One Hundred Years’ dictates, “It doesn’t really matter if we all die.” Once you accept that no love can save you, that you are incapable of love, and that human civilisation is a sham, you end up in the headspace of lyrics like “In a high building there is so much to do” and “I’m just a piece of new meat in a clean room.” Underneath this dangerous misanthropy is a disgust at the bloodshed of the twentieth century, always carried out in the name of enlightened ideas and often repeated with improved cruelty. The thump of the programmed drum machine and distorted bass incursions would be considered industrial today, just as Smith’s ugly guitar slashes would not be out of place on a post-metal or noise rock album. But the centrepiece of the human suffering finds its musical expression in the agonising pitch-bend riff in between the writhing verses. This wails like a traumatised war victim, replaying a classical motif in their head that’s shorn of all melody and repurposed as the air raid siren that haunts their dreams.

“A hundred years of blood – crimson / The ribbon tightens around my throat / I open my mouth, but my head bursts open / A sound like a tiger thrashing in the water,” rages Smith in a disturbing death fantasy. The man who hugged furry cats and tossed beachballs around a year later in the video to ‘Let’s Go to Bed’ did well to extricate himself from this bleak hole of misery, and the pop world should be grateful that he did.

Honourable mentions