'A lovely, idiosyncratic rush of melodic misery': Steve Kilbey on The Cure

If ever there was a quintessentially English band it's gotta be the Cure, right?

Arriving around the time of New Wave back in 1979, the Cure were never about anarchy or unemployment or all that other new-wavy stuff; rather, they were about the ever-ongoing dislocation of an English childhood. There's a lot of Narnia and Gormenghast in those early grooves.

I used to hear that song about the tap going drip-drip-drip on a Saturday night all the time on Double J; it was a staple, along with Boys Don't Cry and the Albert Camus-inspired Killing an Arab. They were inventing what some American writers would later describe as "mope rock". Wow!

Remember when they first toured Australia and played on Countdown? They had two bass guitars and when they mimed to Primary Robert frontman Smith's strings were all detuned and floppy and they looked really cool.


Smith didn't seem like anyone else we'd had before, with his big hair and his strange make-up that was a long way from glam. Things got darker and darker for a while, until their darkest hour, Pornography. It was a doomy, gloomy listen, that's for sure, the antithesis of all that horrible jolly pop music that was cluttering up the charts back in 1982.

Then, the band suddenly took a swerve into the real mainstream, and a bunch of hits and cool videos – Let's Go To Bed, The Love Cats, Why Can't I Be You? – sent them up into the real charts and they were bona fide rock stars selling out arenas and stadiums and they never looked back.

Members seemed to come and go. It was really only Robert and Simon Gallup that seemed to be the mainstays. And then Robert joined Siouxsie and the Banshees on the guitar for a few records, which has got to make him doubly cooler than ever.

The hits kept coming and the videos were all over MTV and The Head on the Door and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me sold by the millions. Robert was playing a lot of six-string bass by now and that gave the Cure a very distinctive sound that sometimes almost veered into New Order territory.

Then in 1989 came Disintegration, where it all it came together. This masterwork yielded even more (seemingly accidental) massive hits, with Pictures of You and Lullaby – a song about an arachnaphobic kid who fears going to bed. In fact, Robert Smith always reminded of me some Christopher Robin type who can never grow up and who's having a bad trip living in some twilight lonely world halfway between childhood and a bedsit existence through a nightmarish looking glass.

The music on Disintegration pulled off the nearly impossible trick of being catchy as all hell whilst maintaining its indie integrity, and when it all comes together it is a truly lovely, idiosyncratic rush of melodic misery.

It's still one of my favourite records from the '80s and its influence can never be overstated. The six-string bass picking out those catchy lines while the four-string bass rumbles along, and Smith's unmistakable voice like an overgrown schoolboy always lost, lonely and longing.

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Disintegration would be a hard record to follow up, and 1992's Wish seemed like Disintegration part 2, just not as good. Having said that, it did spawn a massive hit single in Friday I'm in Love, which was flogged on MTV like all get out.

There have been four albums since then, but none seemed to escape the massive shadow cast by Disintegration, the album that they will play live in full at Vivid.

Last year we were asked to play the Meltdown festival in London, curated by Robert. It made sense to me that Robert was digging the Church and that he was interested in some of the stuff we were doing.

How I would love to say that we hung out in London and that I met Mary (his long-time partner) and that he and I sat around jamming on six-string basses and discussing CS Lewis and Mervyn Peake. But alas, when we came offstage there was a bottle of champers and a note saying sorry he'd missed us but there'd been some family stuff he had to attend. Oh well … never mind.

Hey, I'm still available for some six-string jamming and discussions of Narnia, Bob. Just DM me on the socials and I'll be there with bells on.

Anyway, the Cure at the Opera House will be a glorious gothy wallow. So get out your black clothes and your lipstick and eyeliner and prepare to take the Cure. I guarantee it'll be a monster!

Steve Kilbey is the bassist, songwriter and lead singer of the Church, and an ARIA Hall of Fame inductee.