Boys Don't Cry
Fiction Records, 1979
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/22/2003
This is the album that paved a way for one of the most versatile, ingenious and eccentric alternative rock bands of all time, a phenomenon known as The Cure. This band has always been elusive and outré, and it shows in their debut effort.
Boys Don't Cry was a punk album, released during the time when punk music itself was moribund, and rock music was going through its usual phase of transmogrification, which it does at the end of every decade, gaining new avatars. Considering the kind of album Boys Don't Cry is, and the period of time it was released, it can be said that this effort is indeed a bold one. It is punk, but not the bellicose, "in your face" type, with dyspeptic vocals singing words of disestablishment, accompanied by an equally peeved and loud guitar-musicianship. It is punk that's gloomy, boldly and shamelessly humorous, saturnine, gothic, and most of all, controlled, so that it doesn't explode and spew out things, messing up its music altogether.
The title song of the album, the single "Boys Don't Cry," with its winsome riff and chorus, may be one of The Cure's most lovable songs, but it is just one of the few friendly songs in the album, along with "Jumping In Someone Else's Train." The rest of the songs of Boys Don't Cry may hardly cross three minutes, but within their teensy-weensy bits of time-share, they are as complicated as the trademark 'The Cure' songs of the later albums, which generally go on for not less that six minutes.
As usual, Robert Smith is off-centered with his lyrics, more than in any of his other albums. In the later Cure albums, though their music became more and more complicated and diverse, their lyrics pretty much revolved around themes of love. This one has just a couple of love songs -- "Boys Don't Cry," and maybe "10:15 Saturday Night." Even the latter song is not exactly a love song; it's about Robert Smith waiting for someone on a Saturday night, beside a dripping tap, which is emphasized throughout the song and in the choruses. This is probably a love song of the same weirdness as the ones Bjork usually writes.
The rest of the album, though humorous at times, is gloomy. "The Subway Song," for instance, is absolutely crazy, with Robert Smith whispering the funniest words instead of singing them, and at the end spoiling all the fun with a blood-cuddling scream, probably meaning, "that's 'The Cure' for you." Also, "Killing An Arab" and "Fire In Cairo" have cute and funny lyrics, but are taken very seriously by the band, giving an acerbic edge to these songs rather than an amusing one.
Boys Don't Cry is the most inaccessible Cure album. It is also another amazing Cure album. It is perhaps the only true punk album by this band, before it started experimenting with other forms of music. It is atrabilious, but not as gothic as the typical Cure sound, made popular by classics such as The Head On The Door, Disintegration, or even Wish. For a debut album, Boys Don't Cry is too experimental to gain an instant fan following; but it is the launching album by The Cure, and The Cure always was and is an anomaly.