Behold Robert Smith: God of goth, icon of style, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and, defeater of Mecha-Streisand. He’s also among the most prolific songwriters of his generation. He became the lead singer of The Cure by default when the band’s audition process didn’t produce anyone promising. Soon he was the primary songwriter and engine. By stepping in front of the mic, he went from being merely the “drunk rhythm guitarist” to one of the most iconic vocalists in the history of rock music.
In Smith’s most productive period (1979-1992) The Cure released a staggering five EPs and nine proper albums, including the masterpiece, Disintegration. But even that doesn’t do justice to Robert Smith’s output. From 1982 to 1984, he was also the lead guitarist of goth rock pioneers Siouxsie and the Banshees. In 1983, he recorded with Steve Severin under the moniker The Glove.
Additionally, Robert Smith produced an astonishing collection of bonus songs, covers, and unreleased demos as The Cure, all of which were finally collected in 2005 as Join the Dots: B-Sides and Rarities, 1978-2001. With almost five hours of material, Join the Dots is exhaustingly complete, and I do mean exhausting.
But Smith isn’t just a great songwriter; he’s remarkably consistent. Several songs on Join the Dots are surely only rare because of technical limitations. In the ’70s and’ 80s, records and cassettes didn’t have much storage capacity, so The Cure were obliged to cut good songs. Some of those rejects, as we shall see, are among The Cure’s most interesting work.
These are The Cure’s 10 best deep cuts.
10. “Another Journey by Train”
On The Cure’s first album, Three Imaginary Boys (repackaged as Boys Don’t Cry in the USA), the band aspired to be a kind of punk-Beatles. A fine example of this is the third single, “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” a fun song that doesn’t sound much like later Cure. During live performances in 1979 and ‘80, The Cure would often segue out of the song with the instrumental “Another Journey by Train.”
As opposed to the sparser arrangements of Three Imaginary Boys, “Another Journey by Train” is dramatic, even adventurous, using waves of sound to capture a specific mood. With this emphasis on setting a scene, the song presaged the gothic sounds that The Cure would soon explore.
Flexipop was a British music magazine, founded in 1980 and shuttered in 1983. It might have gone broke because they gave out complimentary “flexidiscs” with each issue, and it was for one of these flexidiscs that The Cure produced, “Lament.” The mix on the Flexipop edition is harsh, almost jarring. The Cure smoothed out some of the rougher edges when they released “Lament” again as the b-side to their 1983 single, “The Walk.” To my ear, though, this second version goes too far and smooths out some of the personality. The wackier Flexipop mix is to be preferred.
08. “Mr. Pink Eyes”
Smith wrote this rollicking ode to his own reflection after a night of heavy drinking and included it on the 1983 single for “The Love Cats.” The piano gets your feet tapping, but it’s a little too frantic to be danceable. As the song progresses, the instruments develop a habit of falling into chaos. “Mr. Pink Eye” is delirious, goofy fun and much more enjoyable than the hangover that inspired it.