The Cure for the common play list Music: Alternative band will leave the pop singles at home, says singer Robert Smith.

November 29, 1997|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Like many people at this time of year, Robert Smith of the Cure is beginning to worry that he may not achieve one of the goals he'd set for himself: to perform 200 songs by Christmas.

"We've actually played over 150 songs in the last 12 months," he says, over the phone from a London studio where he and the band are rehearsing for a nine-date U.S. tour. "We're gradually working our way through the entire back catalog. Hopefully, we will have gotten through close to 170 by the time we finish these American dates."

That the Cure would even have 200 songs to play is, in itself, fairly amazing. Given the relatively ephemeral nature of alterna-rock acts -- few of which manage to endure beyond a half-dozen albums -- the Cure's 20-year, 17-album career is almost miraculous.

So it shouldn't seem surprising that despite being 30 songs short of his stated goal, Smith still has hope. "I think we're going to do a couple of London shows," he says. "We might try and throw in some very old ones then."

Smith's obsession with back catalogmakes a certain amount of sense, given that the Cure's current album is a greatest-hits collection called "Galore." The band's second such anthology (the first was the 1986 release "Standing on the Beach"), it boasts all the band's best-known singles, including "Love Song," "Mint Car" and "Friday I'm in Love."

But don't expect to hear any of them on the band's current tour. "For this tour, it's the more obscure, heavy stuff that we've been rehearsing," he says. "Normally when we come to America, we're touring behind an album, and there's always a whole set of new songs. By the time we fit in the crowd-pleasers, it doesn't leave much space left to experiment.

"So we thought that we'd just play songs that we'd always wanted to play over the last 10 or 15 years but never found space in the set for."

Although Smith is hesitant to give away too much about the set list, he mentions such dark-night-of-the-soul epics as "The Holy Hour," "Shake Dog Shake" and "One Hundred Years" -- songs dating back a dozen or more years -- as being among the titles the band is preparing.

Smith admits it's a tad perverse to build a show around such obscurities. "Ostensibly, we're still promoting 'Galore,' " he says, and laughs softly. But having done a handful of hits-oriented shows earlier this fall, Smith feels that he's done his share of playing hit machine.

"We did a few shows a few weeks ago where we concentrated exclusively on singles," he explains. "We based it around most of 'Galore' and some songs from 'Standing On the Beach.' It was very upbeat. I was kind of feeling like I used to feel when I was


"I mean, I do enjoy playing the singles," he adds. "But it was pretty weird just playing singles. It was a bit like the human jukebox, you know? The Cure as karaoke machine."

Normally, of course, the Cure doesn't have to choose between pop hits and obscure fan favorites; it plays for several hours, and draws from both sides of the catalog. Last year's tour, behind the album "Wild Mood Swings," saw the band playing 30 or more songs each night. "And we rehearsed over a hundred," says Smith. "It was dead good."

But because this current tour consists of radio station festival concerts, like tomorrow's WHFS 1997 Miss Holiday Nutcracker show in Fairfax, Va., the band is being restricted to a mere 90 minutes. Sometimes even less. "We did shows recently where we only had an hour," he says. "It was incredibly frustrating, because we'd just get going, and then have to stop."

Hence the decision to focus entirely on one type of music. "By the time you've done three seven-minutes songs, you realize that you've gone a quarter of the way through the set," says Smith. "It's very weird."

However, even as he looks forward to playing these older, darker songs -- "As a singer, it's much more gratifying doing those longer, more emotional songs, than the jumping-around-the-stage stuff," he says -- he worries a bit about doing a show that plays into the notion that the Cure is a goth band, a bunch of Gloomy Gusses who do nothing but wear dark clothes, play drony music and mope.

"It's always struck me as very strange that people try to paint us into this dark corner," says Smith. "The British press, in particular, have always tried to make us into a goth band."

In fact, one wag in the press went so far as to dub Smith the Pope of Mope, a tag he finds frankly ludicrous.

"I don't mope about all the time," he says. "I mope very infrequently, in fact."

Still, he tries not to take it to heart. After all, the press appear to be in the minority on this point. "The general public don't know us as a goth band," Smith proudly points out. "They just think I look a bit weird. But we do pop songs."

Just not on this tour, is all.

Alternativity scene

What: WHFS 1997 Miss Holiday Nutcracker, featuring the Cure, the Verve, Sugar Ray, Everclear, Save Ferris and Days of the New

When: Sunday, Nov. 30, 6 p.m. (Doors open at 5: 30 p.m.)

Where: Patriot Centre at George Mason University

Tickets: $27

Call: 410-481-7328 for tickets, 703-993-3000 for information

Sundial: To hear excerpts from the Cure's new release, "Galore," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6175. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 11/29/97

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