Just about anyone under thirty has heard of the Cure. Many have seen front man Robert Smith and his giant haircut. Some can name songs, and be counted as fans. Unite all those people, something the Cure has managed to do, and you have a band that's been able to sell about five million albums in its ten-year existence.
All this without usually coming close to the top of the Billboard charts. Smith has said that this is because the Cure subscribes to the "punk ethic of doing it yourself." And, he boasts, "We're always slightly outside of things."
But somehow the Cure has managed to step out of the college-radio, art-school club and into the nation's arenas, becoming the darling band of that ubiquitous, money-spending and stadium-going creature--the teenager. The Cure has accomplished this without alienating its original fan club, an elusive entity caught in the timeless vacuum of black clothes and big hair, a place where one never ages.
How does the Cure appeal to teenagers and seasoned clubgoers alike without hardly deviating from the painful, sepulchral darkness of all its most tender, youthful days? This single-minded, obsessive drive may explain the loyalty of older fans, but what about the band's current brand of angst-istentialism can possibly be so "awesome," as the teen multitudes filing out of its recent concerts were heard proclaiming on recent MTV coverage?
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One reason for this fanaticism may be that the Cure has employed a promotional tactic that's been used to great success repeatedly by everyone from Elton John to the Who. Namely, the "farewell tour." In fact, the current Prayer Tour is the Cure's second wave goodbye in the past few years. Back in '87, the Cure toured in support of its Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me release, a double album filled with an eclectic mix of dirges ("The Kiss" and "Shiver and Shake") and fluffier stuff ("Hey You!!!" and "Why Can't I Be You?"), and it was announced that this would be the last chance to see the band. The event was well publicized in the media, allowing the Cure to capture the hearts of many. It worked then and, what do you know, it's working again: The Prayer Tour is also the fans' last chance to see the Cure before the band ever tours again.
Another reason the Cure is so high on teenage lists stems from just plain longevity. As teens are always on the lookout for what's new or "fresh" or different, they would naturally be drawn to the Cure's cult status. But now they buy the group's records and attend its concerts in droves, which points to something that is beyond a cult following and more akin to one reserved for rock legends or mainstream performers. The Cure is arguably not the latter, but the band is nevertheless one of the last of its breed, the original "new wave band," a fading dinosaur. Add to this the group's current line-up, which now includes former members of the Psychedelic Furs and the Thompson Twins (two other paleolithic creatures of the "new" age), and the Cure becomes a veritable supergroup of the Eighties, a decade already behind us.
With the release of a new album called Disintegration, a return to the Cure's former dismal bodings circa Faith (1981), the Cure may have come full circle. Could this mean that the band is ready to lay quietly to rest? Smith has been quoted as wishing for "it to stop before it reaches the top of the hill and then slides back down again." And at age thirty, with all those years of music behind him, one can plainly understand his predicament. Yet, as he himself adds, "Even though we now have parents coming to our concerts, it's only in the past fifteen years that the idea of old people still being young comes through. I'm still coming to terms with it and I just turned thirty."
If posterity elevates Robert Smith's art beyond his classic haircut, the Cure may yet be allowed to remain ageless.