1979 was a bipolar musical patient. It didn’t know if it wanted to be loud, angry and poorly musically trained, or soft, technical and aging. Others would say it wanted to be a robot, an effeminate, new-romantic kind of robot with too much eyeliner. Sages called that New Wave, Post-Punk, and any number of other buzzwords that non-musicians with their silly hats could come up with, because it’s always clever to draw comparisons between synth-heavy, gender bending musical movements, and an unrelated movie fad from a bunch of Maoist French teenagers, also with very silly hats.
1979 saw the release of The Cure’s, Three Imaginary Boys and Gary Numan’s, The Pleasure Principle. They arrived along with a whole movement of electronic oddities. The English band XTC had just released its debut album the year before, and Joy Division had just left its stain on the scene. The methods and the styles were changing, leaving behind disco hate, purist punk rock, and the leftovers of the flower generation along its footprints. Music, fashion and politics needed a change, and all we got was a stupid shirt that may or may not have said Metallica on it.
The Cure Three Imaginary Boys
Yes, lead singer Robert Smith’s first with his least favorite album from his own band. Smith and his fellow middle school friends formed The Cure in Sussex, Britain back in 1973. The band lacked any recording experience and left the mixing and engineering work to producers, much to Smith’s dismay. The Cure would grow dramatically after Three Imaginary Boys, with albums that would actually challenge conventions and that sounded like finished works. Three Imaginary Boys will always be an unfinished and fragmented project, and Smith hits the nail on the head with his hate for some tracks on the album. The covers feel forced and juxtaposed, they don’t belong here, somehow it will never ever sound natural to the ears to go from the inventive “Subway Song,” only to go on to a “Foxy Lady” cover. The most bizarre down note the album hits is the last track simply called “[untitiled].” Excuse me; I don’t listen to The Cure to hear blues solos, if I wanted to hear that, I’d throw on some Blind Willie Johnson, someone who can actually play blues.
As much as I’d want to tear the album apart for it’s amateur recording and sheepish style at times, I can’t deny its choice genius tracks. Track 12, the eponymous “Three Imaginary Boys,” is an alt-rock anthem that is the wrong decade. The song would find a better home in 1990 if it could find its say there. Other songs, such as “10:15 on a Saturday Night,” and “Fire in Cairo” are some of the first examples of that distinct 80s Cure sound that Smith would eventually perfect. Both tracks are worth the album’s existence alone.
The climax for album has to be “Subway Song.” Smith has not yet been able to replicate the dread and suspense of this song. With it’s single slow bass line, the eerie track tells the story of a girl going home on the subway as she is followed by a stalker. Without any lyrics and only Smith’s spoken lines, the track leads up to one of the few authentic screams ever in rock.
Three Imaginary Boys is a flawed but sometimes enjoyable album, with too much redeemable value to overlook. Go listen to it, you wankers.
Gary Numan The Pleasure Principle
When you read this you will have lost all self-respect, or not, it depends on your view of synthpop. If the thought of Brian Eno’s long stringy hair waving in the air as he bare backs David Bowie turns you on, then all the more power to you. Crank up the Erasure and ejaculate.
To be fair, Numan did change music. Enough to get name-dropped on The Mighty Boosh every episode.
And you know, the thing about Gary Numan is, not only is he a pop star right, he’s got a pilot’s license. How cool is that?!
The Pleasure Principle, doesn’t play around, it shoots warm, hot, synthpop right down your throat fast with “Airplane.” It’s pure synthpop, Numan doesn’t even have to say a word. That’s right, he doesn’t even have to speak to unleash the hounds that aren’t from hell because hounds from hell would have substantially more testosterone than these hounds.
It’s hard for me to pick out bad tracks from the album since everything sticks to the same theme. Numan does something new and cool, but then does the same thing for 12 songs worth of pretty damn good music. He doesn’t leave any low points, which isn’t too bad for a debut. He knows what he’s doing and sticks to it. You’ll have plenty of time to blow coke and experiment later.
The subtle climaxes of the album have to be near its end as the album gets more lyrically heavy and begins to resemble traditional rock more. “M.E.” “Observer” and “Cars,” are as memorable as they are fun to listen to. They’re perhaps the most accessible tracks on the album. For those of you who don’t know what “Music for Airports” is, listen to these three first.
The Pleasure Principle was an important release, especially in the U.S. market, where it ushered in a generation of imitators and defined, in it’s most pure form, a sound that the 80s grew to love, just like spandex, and New-Coke. All in all, it’s a clever and unique album, and no one will call you gay if you listen to it, honest. Don’t you like Cars? Don’t you feel safest of all in them? Don’t you think having a pilot’s license is cool? That’s right, I thought so. Now go queer out and listen to Gary Numan, don’t forget to grab some Culture Club albums on your way out.