Three Imaginary Boys

A mopey 26-year-old once spoke musically to a 15-year-old. Can a 49-year-old do the same for a 38-year-old?

I was that 15-year-old (the pic is when I was 17, close as I could find) and The Cure diverted me from a path of Top 40 mediocrity. There wasn't a great moment of epiphany when I first heard Robert Smith, but there was when I saw his picture taped to the inside of a locker door of a girl I was far too shy to talk to.

She was what would now be called a goth, but this was the mid-80s in London, Ontario, a solidly staid and middle class town, so she was, of course, labeled a freak. There was a small handful of them at my high school and as somebody who belonged to no particular subculture, our paths never crossed.

So when I saw the birds-nest haired visage of Smith, I figured this was my way in. Get to know The Cure and I'd get to know her. It worked, kind of. For the next six years, I became obsessed with the band, but today I can't remember the name of my goth inspiration. I got as close as calling her one day, but it went no further. But my love affair with the band was intense.

I bought everything they released, pasted up pictures and extolled their greatness to all and sundry. But I never fully bought into the image, never teasing out my hair or lining my eyes and lips in black, which actually made me stand out at the concerts. Which led to one of my first, and best, geek showdowns.

One summer at an amusement park, two typical Cure fans, spying me wearing a tour shirt came up and accused me of not being a real fan, in the righteous way that only teenagers can muster. The demanded I tell them what the band's last two albums were and I responded by listing off The Cure's discography in reverse order, down to the UK-only release of Three Imaginary Boys, which I owned on vinyl. The backed off, apologizing profusely.

But during university, my ardor cooled, as it turned out I really wasn't a despondent teen. Their music remained static, but I moved on. So when I read a review of 4:13 Dream, the band's 13th studio album in 29 years, I was intrigued. Could I go back? Were they playing in this decade, or had they been standing still since I'd last paid them any mind?

The simple answer is not much has changed. Smith, the messiah of melancholy, is still feeling glum, proving that boys do, in fact, cry. The guitar work sounds au courant, but when Smith warbles "I won't try to bring you down about my suicide," he already has.

Above: Poster from the Toronto stop on The Prayer Tour, from The Cure Concerts Guide. Still one of the best concerts I've ever seen. Almost four hours!

1 comment:

  1. I was curious if I should indulge in the new album and appreciate your view point. I was concerned about that very thing since I'd had a similar experience with the Nine Inch Nails release a few years ago. Trent is still singing about the same things he did in the '90s (although the music itself is updated and amazing) but I've grown up and moved on.