The Cure Invented A New Kind Of Music For Alienated Teenagers

Cultural Critic
03.28.19

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On Friday, The Cure will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 15 years after they were originally eligible. That it took so long to recognize the defining goth-pop band of the 20th and 21st centuries proves that not enough Rock Hall voters ever spent time as depressed teenagers in the ’80s, ’90s, or now. But for those of us who have suffered through that particular detail, The Cure is undeniably important.

For anyone who might argue otherwise, it should be known that The Cure invented a new kind of youth music, which you can still hear traces of today. Just like Robert Smith, perpetually alone above a raging sea, dreamt up the effervescent valentine that is “Just Like Heaven,” The Cure is a sleeper cell lurking in the architecture of modern pop, influencing new generations of ponderous, gorgeous songs designed to guide teens through their most epic wallows. Indie, emo, Soundcloud rap, even mainstream pop — all of it has been touched in some way by the influence of The Cure.

Formed in 1976 and guided for more than 40 years by Robert Smith, the poet laureate of cosmically doomed loner romanticism, The Cure first hit their stride in the early ’80s on mesmerizingly dreary post-punk albums like 1980’s Seventeen Seconds and 1981’s Faith. Then the band evolved into a shockingly canny pop group on early alt-rock landmarks like 1985’s The Head On The Door and 1987’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, and then even more shockingly embraced full on arena rock with their masterpiece, 1989’s Disintegration, the Reagan/Bush era’s answer to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, a sky-high bulwark protecting sensitive outcasts from an uncaring world.

Before The Cure, kids either listened to sweet, mainstream pop that peddled spritely fantasies of puppy dog love, or screamingly bombastic hard rock and metal intended to send parents straight to the neighborhood exorcist. What The Cure did was isolate a neglected demographic who felt too freakish for pop and too smart for metal. Smith perfected a kind of head music for cloudy minds, slowing down the tempos to Black Sabbath-speed, but with guitar riffs that were dreamy and ethereal, evoking a sensation that felt like floating away from your parents, your school, and the overall drudgery of daily existence. The Cure wasn’t alone in pushing this aesthetic during the ’80s, but they were most responsible for mainstreaming it into international suburbia.

Along with giving these kids a soundtrack, The Cure also gave them a look. There wasn’t a high school in the late 20th century that didn’t have a contingent of “Cure kids” decked out in oversized band T-shirts, dark pants, and conspicuous makeup slathered on pale faces. (In The Breakfast Club, Ally Sheedy is a proto-Cure kid.) For the children of Deadheads, Robert Smith was essentially Jerry Garcia meets Edward Scissorhands.

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