[Review] The Cure: The Top (1984)

Some people will tell you this is The Cure’s worst album. Apparently, the same people who think Siouxsie and the Banshees suck.

Kronomyth 7.0: I love it, so sioux me.

The general consensus among critics is that The Top is the bottom where The Cure are concerned. I’ll confess to being a bit underwhelmed by it in the beginning too. It’s not the cavalcade of hits you’ll find on the albums before (Japanese Whispers) and after (Head On The Door). “The Caterpillar” is the only thing most people remember from The Top these days. But it is arguably the most gorgeously produced record that Robert Smith and Laurence Tolhurst had made so far.

The exotic influence of Siouxsie and the Banshees is keenly felt here, and maybe some (or many) took umbrage with the blurring between the two bands. I would tell you that the album is drenched in psychedelic experimentation, though a failed experiment it isn’t. Instead, Smith and co-producers Chris Parry and Dave Allen have created something entirely new here: punk, psychedelia and new wave with emerging pop sensibilities topped off by Smith’s increasingly bizarre but artful vocals. Listening to a song like “Piggy in The Mirror,” I have the impression that a new kind of singer is emerging; I imagine it must have felt that way when listeners first heard Elvis.

Smith has certainly written better songs that “Shake Dog Shake” and “The Top,” and perhaps bookending the album with two of its weakest tracks was its undoing. You can’t really listen to this album, though, without being impressed with the “new” Cure sound and how much music they’re able to create with only two full-time players plus a drummer. True, you won’t find many hits on here, but that’s what greatest hits records are for. What you will find is an important and, yes, transitional record, that finds the butterfly of the future almost fully emerged.

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Original LP Version

A1. Shake Dog Shake (4:58)
A2. Birdmad Girl (Robert Smith/Laurence Tolhurst) (4:04)
A3. Wailing Wall (5:18)
A4. Give Me It (3:40)
A5. Dressing Up (2:47)
B1. The Caterpillar (Robert Smith/Laurence Tolhurst) (3:40)
B2. Piggy In The Mirror (Robert Smith/Laurence Tolhurst)  (3:38)
B3. Empty World (2:35)
B4. Bananafishbones (3:09)
B5. The Top (6:52)

All songs written by Robert Smith unless noted.

Bonus Disc (Deluxe Edition)
1. You Stayed…
2. Ariel
3. A Hand Inside My Mouth
4. Sadacic (M05)
5. Shake Dog Shake
6. Piggy In The Mirror
7. Birdmad Girl
8. Give Me It
9. Throw Your Foot
10. Happy The Man
11. The Caterpillar
12. Dressing Up
13. Wailing Wall
14. The Empty World
15. Banafishbones
16. The Top
17. Forever (version)

The Players

Andy Anderson (drums, percussion), Robert Smith (instruments, voices), Laurence Tolhurst (other instruments) with Porl Thompson (saxophone). Produced by Robert Smith, Chris Parry and Dave Allen; engineered by Dave Allen and Howard Grey.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on April 30, 1984 in the UK (Fiction/Polydor, fixs/fixsc 9) and the US and Australia (Sire, 4-25086/25086-1), Argentina (Polydor, 821136-1), Israel (Polydor, 821 136-1), Japan (VAP, 35117-25) and New Zealand (Sire, 250861) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #10 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in 1987 in Argentina (Polydor, 69053) and Brazil (Polydor, 821 136-1).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Sire, 25086-2).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc on December 1, 1990 in Japan (Polydor, POCP-1877).
  4. Re-released on super high material compact disc on May 21, 2008 in Japan (Fiction, UICY-93481).
  5. Re-released as expanded Deluxe Edition compact disc on 2CD in Germany with 17 bonus tracks.
  6. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2006 in Europe (Polydor, 984 001-3).
  7. Re-issued on remastered 180g vinyl elpee in 2016 in the US (Rhino, R1-25086).

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