Song 183: The Cure, “Close to Me” (1986)

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I avoided The Cure for years and years. They just seemed so dark. Robert Smith looked like the joker, their records had names like Disintegration and Pornography, and their fans dressed in black. It didn’t sound like my kind of scene.

And then, sometime in college, I realized that this was the band behind “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Friday I’m In Love,” “Just Like Heaven” … this was not the band I thought they were. They’re capable of darkness, of course, but even those songs have a lightness to them, as if dusk is just setting in. It’s not that I needed The Cure to be pop masters in order for me to like them, I was just surprised that they had songs I could like.

I was even more surprised to learn that they had a song with a peppy horn section. True, only the below remix of “Close to Me” has these horns (the original version appeared a year earlier, on the record The Head on the Door), but the thing is so damn fun that I still can’t believe it belongs to a band who basically started the Goth scene. What the what?

I love this song’s energy, and I love how those horns surprise you. Most of all, I love how the parts of this song get assembled as it goes: The drums and handclaps come in first, then the bass, then the keyboards that provide the foundation of the song. Then that synth, with its light-as-air “boop boop boop,” drops in, followed by another synth line as counterpoint. It’s like the band is showing you how to arrange a song, piece by piece. Ingredients in the recipe.

The horn entrance makes me laugh every time, even though I know it’s coming. The way they slide in is like a sly little wink, a nod to the fact that it would be funny if the song suddenly had horns. After all these years of knowing that The Cure isn’t about funeral pyres and mopiness, I’m still constantly surprised at how happy they can be. I think the fact that they’re capable of such emotional extremes is very impressive.

Now, a personal note: this post marks the halfway point of this blog (well, technically the halfway point would be halfway through this post, but I didn’t want to break up my very impressive essay about synths going “boop boop boop”). Thank you so much for reading, to whatever extent that you have. It’s been such a fun project, and a really good way for me to keep writing every day.

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