Recorded practically live over three nights with few over-dubs, 'Three Imaginary Boys'...
Simon Morgan 2004
A fine year for alienation, 1979. The Clash made the apocalyptic London Calling; Manchester's Joy Division debuted with the brutally despairing Unknown Pleasures; Gerry Dammers and co. set the Midlands' malaise to a ska beat with The Specials. Meanwhile, in darkest Crawley, 20-year-old Robert Smith was forging his own take on the post-punk zeitgeist. Twenty-five years on, and in a beautifully repackaged edition, Three Imaginary Boys stands as one of that year's most audacious albums.
Forget about The Cure's later wallowings in gothic gloom and drawn-out suffering. After dark, Fiction Records' boss Chris Parry smuggled his budget-lite band into the studio where The Jam were recording All Mod Cons by day. Smith and the boys used that band's equipment to make midnight hay. From declamatory opener "10.15 Saturday Night", through the power-pop of "Grinding Halt" and the 999-sounding "Foxy Lady" to the lyrically abstract "Fire In Cairo" and psychedelia-tinged title track, TIB maintains a Japanese-water-torture insistence.
Recorded practically live over three nights with few over-dubs, the album is stark, angry and strafed with Smith's urgent guitar. Punk's predecessors and contemporary nightmares made it into the mix - "Object" evokes Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie; "Subway" could be sister to The Jam's "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight". Parry and engineer-cum-producer Mike Hedges gave the collection an icy veneer that upset Smith in 1979, but now feels starkly reflective of its moment.
Disc 2 of this deluxe edition contains twenty previously unreleased Cure rarities from 1977-1979. Home and studio demos track the development of many TIB tracks and of others like "Boys Don't Cry"; out-takes and live versions further mark the band's evolving sound. Smart cover notes reveal the album's genesis and Smith's own thoughts. Exciting, mascara-free and surprisingly upbeat, Three Imaginary Boys captures a key British talent let off the leash for the first time. It also helps recolour a band best known for inky melancholy. Available only in black? On this evidence, The Cure's music was much more than that.