Considering Robert Smith, the leading man of The Cure, once referred to the band’s track ‘Lovesong’ as “disappointing” despite being considered among the very best the Crawley group ever put out, there’s no surprise that he reigns as The Cure’s fiercest critic. Unashamed for throwing shade at his own band, Smith’s vision of what constitutes a great track, like any truly brilliant artist, usually lands some of the band’s strangest material as his self-diagnosed best.
The same can also be said for albums, and where the singer might well understand and be aware of the love for certain albums in the gorup’s rich discography, he doesn’t seem to care about the feelings of fans. It may well be why we’re still waiting for their elusive next record. It might also be why Smith once labelled one of the group’s best LPs as his “least favourite.”
The note came during a conversation with Rolling Stone whereby Smith took the publication through The Cure’s discography. However, the chat got off to a not-so-great start as Smith labelled the band’s debut album Three Imaginary Boys as The Cure’s worst album and his own “least favourite.” Forgive us for being a little bit romantic, but there’s something pure and passionate about a band’s debut album that can never be replicated. For Smith, in this case, that’s a good thing.
The Cure were still growing into themselves when they released their searing post-punk debut Three Imaginary Boys in 1979. An album brimming with malicious intent was also drenched in melancholy and melodrama too. We will quickly move on from their covers of ‘Foxy Lady’ by Jimi Hendrix to songs like ‘10.15 Saturday Night’, ‘Accuracy’ and ‘Object’ all land with some serious weight. It hinted at a bright future, but it still lacks among the rest of their output for Smith looking back.
“The first one is my least favourite Cure album,” Smith told Rolling Stone. But, rather than it being about the songs, the reason Smith wasn’t a fan is because of what happened after they’d recorded the album. “Obviously, they are my songs, and I was singing, but I had no control over any other aspect of it: the production, the choices of the songs, the running order, the artwork. It was all kind of done by Parry without my blessing. And even at that young age, I was very pissed off.
“I had dreamed of making an album,” continued Smith, “and suddenly we were making it, and my input was being disregarded. I decided from that day on we would always pay for ourselves and therefore retain total control.”
In consideration of the songs, Smith is a little less hesitant: “I was writing songs for the first album for a period of about two or three years. I wrote ’10:15 Saturday Night’ and ‘Killing an Arab’ when I was about sixteen, and we recorded the album when I was eighteen, so I wasn’t really still convinced by some of the songs. The pop songs like ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ are naive to the point of insanity [laughs]. But considering the age I was and the fact that I had done nothing apart from go to school – no real-life experience, everything was taken from books – some of them are pretty good.”
For our money, Three Imaginary Boys is far from the band’s worst album. It is potent and pulsating with all the verve and vigour that The Cure would take into their careers. However, it is easy to see how an artist like Smith, who consistently pushed the artistic envelope, would be dismayed by his first outing. That won’t stop us from playing it every day, though!