“Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure
(Words/Music: The Cure, Album: Three Imaginary Boys (UK - 1979), Boys Don’t Cry (US - 1980), Elektra Records)
My experience and love of The Cure was backwards in that I first became aware of them during their successful Disintegration and Wish era of the early 90s but then explored the history of the band. What I found was a band that sounded more like a New Wave/Brit Pop band like The Jam and Elvis Costello than like the ambient/Goth band they would evolve into ten years later. Beginning as a three piece on their first album, then adding a keyboardist on their second, and gradually growing the band after that, the initial goal of the music was simplicity with more complicated and literary lyrics. They were not a simple pop band with insipid lyrics: they had something to say, even on their pop-sounding albums. As the band progressed, the music became darker and more moody and the lyrics began to reflect a more existential, almost nihilistic, philosophy.
“Boys Don’t Cry” would introduce the theme of exhibiting emotions while maintaining an outward stoicism. This would eventually evolve into the singular defining aspect of the band, incorporating not only their music but also their image and eventually the image of their fans (i.e. dressing in all black with heavy makeup so that even if they were happy, no one would ever know). The message was that feelings were alright to be felt but never shown. They were probably the single most influential band in the burgeoning Goth genre and, as I explained to my students once, a major influence on the look and attitude of Emo (I think I actually described Emo as a cross between early Green Day and Nine Inch Nails and eventually amended it to pop-punk with theatrics). Their second single from their first album, “Boys Don’t Cry” reminds me that even the most complex bands and songs start with a simple and singular vision.
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