Album Review: The Cure: Three Imaginary Boys (Expanded and Remastered)

A good listen at "10:15 Saturday Night," or any other time you desire.
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In 2004, Rhino Records released a deluxe edition of The Cure’s first album, Three Imaginary Boys, which was previously only available in the U.S. as an import. What was their first U.S. release, Boys Don’t Cry, has eight songs from Three Imaginary Boys. Two other tracks from Boys Don’t Cry appear on the second disc and they happen to be two of the most popular from this early period, the title track and “Jumping Someone Else’s Train.”

Disc one is their debut album in its entirety, clocking in at a meager 36 minutes. The songs are short, and the structure of the music is simple, but you can hear the seeds of what The Cure’s sound would become. “Object” has a cool echo effect on the vocals. “Subway” is a short, spooky song about a woman being followed. “Meathook” is a weird, funny story about going into a butcher shop and Robert Smith repeats some words.

The most well-known song is “10:15 Saturday Night,” which does a marvelous job of evoking the loneliness and sadness brought on when left alone "Waiting / For the telephone to ring...wondering / Where she's been."  Tolhurst beats a rhythm with his sticks, drip drip drip drip drip drip drip drip, a maddening sound reminiscent of the tell-tale heart   Smith plucks notes, also echoing a steady drip. Then his guitar mirrors the narrator's frustration with a loud, distorted jangle on the bridge. 

The Cure started out as a trio with Smith on guitar, Lol Tolhurst on drums and Michael Dempsey on bass. Three Imaginary Boys sounds very good for a debut album. It still has a unique sound after all these years; however, it’s hard to truly appreciate what this sounded like in 1979. It’s a problem all art suffers when you look back after its influence has permeated the culture, much the same way the editing of Goddard’s Breathless no longer appears groundbreaking after 40-plus years.

Disc two is over an hour of rarities spanning 1977-1979. It’s a mixture of live tracks, demos, and studio tracks; three of which appeared on the Curiosity cassette in 1984. Future member Porl Thompson plays guitar on six of the tracks, adding more of a rock sound to the music. On two of the home demos the vocals are horrendous and shouldn't have been included. You can hear the progression of “10:15 Saturday Night” as the home demo has very pronounced keyboards and the tempo is slowed down. The two tracks from Boys Don’t Cry have a warmer sound in both the vocals and music. The disc closes with three tracks recorded live in Nottingham in 1979. It seems like a bootleg rather than being recorded through the soundboard. You can hear the audience murmuring throughout.

The liner notes have some interesting information about the band at this stage and the recording of the album. Smith discusses the lame artwork that graces the cover and why he “never allowed anyone in the studio in the role of ‘producer'” after this album.

For fans that already have Three Imaginary Boys, the remastering and rarities are worth the price of a double dip.  By the way, Smith was able to get the music companies to release these upgraded discs in exchange for allowing HP to use “Pictures of You” in a commercial, so everyone who badmouthed him and called him a “sell-out” needs to apologize. Sorry for doubting you, Robert. You were right. I was wrong.

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