Before anyone had ever heard of these Sussex suburbanites, before the lineup changes became chronic, and before every band of the 90s started covering their songs, there was the unnoticed, 1979 UK release of Three Imaginary Boys by some band called The Cure, and it began a musical revolution. Now after twenty-four years and numerous US hits such as “Fascination Street”, “Love Song”, and “Just Like Heaven,” Rhino re-releases the debut in the US together with a disc of rare, early recordings. The first disc is the original and is just about equivalent to the 1980 US release Boys Don’t Cry, with a few extra songs. It is being released so that fans can see, in retrospect, the evolution of a musical legacy.
The disc is a nihilistic, introspective look at always-poignant singer/guitarist Robert Smith. Almost every track written by the teenage Smith for his first release is about despair from the inability to be loved; a subject that went on to dominate the majority of his writing. Smith echoes; “wondering where she’s been and I’m crying,” in “10.15 Saturday Night,” which is the most literal example of his imminent desolation. His most popular yet miserable anti-love anthem that is still gripping hearts thanks to the recent 311 cover is, of course, “Love Song,” originally released in 1989 on Disintegration. The romantic sadness of Smith himself sometimes leads to the band being classified as Goth-rock but musically, The Cure was on a different path.
Three Imaginary Boys is a divergence from punk into what would become the post-punk 80s. Despite the Goth-rock image that the gloomy Smith is usually associated with, Three Imaginary Boys is musically a copasetic initiation into the artsy mood that was developing from the lack of technical restrictions put on musicians of the time and the freshness arising from the new generation. The heavy influence of the dominating UK punk scene in the 70s is an unquestionable influence noting the fast pace of “10.15 Saturday Night,” and the provocative, confrontational attitude of “Foxy Lady.” Upon this release, with the mixture of the old and the new, the contemporary music world was on the verge of a colossal reformation.
Immediately following the arrival of The Cure came the rise of other similar 80s Britpop bands like Depeche Mode, Joy Division, and The Smiths. The band got to work in the years following their first release, recording and releasing about one CD a year and taking over British charts while also making their mark in the States. The second disc that is being released with the new deluxe edition is comprised of early recordings and rare live tracks from 1977-1979. It has 20 tracks and is actually entertaining throughout despite the three different versions of”10.15 Saturday Night.” The highlights are the studio demos of “Boys Don’t Cry,” and “I Want To Be Old.” The rarities CD is a well-put together mix and is essential for true fans.
Besides being an important band in terms of influence, The Cure have had an amazing 24-plus year career and continues to set trends while still making great music. It would be nearly impossible to find a popular indie band right now that wouldn’t quickly list them as an important influence; The Cure has made an undeniable bang in the world. To hear the 1979 debut Three Imaginary Boys after becoming accustomed to The Cure of 2004’s Curiosaand of this year’s self-titled release is to see the growth of a deity arise and shape the music industry around their ideology. Three Imaginary Boys wasn’t paid much attention to when it was initially released, but it revealed the foundation of a musical revolution that is still unconditionally challenging the institution.