The Top by The Cure

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The Top by The Cure
The Top by The Cure

Album Released: 1984

The Top ::: Artwork

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1.Shake Dog Shake4:55
2.Birdmad Girl4:05
3.Wailing Wall5:17
4.Give Me It3:42
5.Dressing Up2:51
6.The Caterpillar3:40
7.Piggy In The Mirror3:40
8.The Empty World2:36
10.The Top6:50


The Top was always going to have a difficult job balancing its appeal to both Cure fans old and new. The 'pop' Cure fans are served by a glossier production than the likes of Pornography, but then many of them won't have heard that album anyway. Indeed, The Top may have come across to fans of "The Lovecats" as just an album lacking good pop tunes.

On the other hand, fans of Pornography will have lamented the glossier production and the definite loss in atmosphere as the band moved forwards. In truth, glossy production aside, this album does have more in common with Cure past than it did the pop tunes on Japanese Whispers.

The tunes on this album don't seem to actually amount to anything, they're just a disparate collection of songs under the umbrella of the new sound of The Cure. It's a rockier sound in places, the mixing bringing out the guitars and drums better than in the past. Robert Smith himself doesn't seem to have changed much, his lyrics and vocals still mention blood and the like, but that doesn't matter when "Shake Dog Shake" - the 'blood' song in question - is quite thrilling, especially turned up loud on the old record player.

"Birdmad Girl" is a favourite of mine, the production is crystal clear, the classic Cure guitar sound is there, and it seems generally happy. "The Caterpillar" is an excellent tune too, on an album generally short of excellent tunes, and one that would've appealed to new pop-Cure fans, no question.

In marked contrast to "The Caterpillar", "The Empty World" is the usual Cure thing, with a vocal and lyric that sounds mournful etc, and that contrast is in a way an embroynic version of almost every Cure album that followed. It reveals what can be deduced in hindsight ... that The Top was a transitional record, working as a bridge between Pornography and The Head On the Door.

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning (blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews)

Messier than a pothead's pantry, The Top finds Robert Smith trying to reconcile the two faces of The Cure that had popped up since the band's last studio album.

Pornography had all those beautiful innocent love songs and pastoral hymns, but then Smith did an about-face with his stupid 'Duran Duran for fat girls' dance-fluff singles, collected on the 1984 compilation Japanese Whispers.

So how was he going to expand his audience to include those teenyboppers with fat wallets, yet not completely alienate those among his hardcore Goth fans who hadn't killed themselves yet? Well, he attempts the impossible on The Top.

Smith walks the line dividing those two extremes like a champion waffler, and even if the results end up about as memorable as a bowl of cocoa puffs you ate 16 years ago, it's interesting to hear how he got from the wrist-hacking good times of Pornography to the pop masterworks of the mid-80's in three turns or less.

The first thing I notice that is completely new for a Cure album, is drumming that actually syncopates the 2/4 with a conventional snare drum whack, just like your Top 40 John Cougar Mellencamps and Tom Pettys. In addition, there's audible keyboards playing 'celest' pads and other assorted twinkles, just like your Haircut 100s and OMDs did during the 'New Romantic' movement of the early-80's. Yet there's still lots and lots of droney guitar noise and various moments of wussy screaming like on Pornography. Sound confusing?

The whole idea behind Pornography was that it was music accessible only to people equipped with a certain mindset, who could process wailing guitars and thunkity-thunk electro-mechanical drumbeats. There wasn't even a doorhandle for the average radio listener, or even the average reasonably-knowledgeable New Wave fan for that matter.

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by Reviewer: Capt Bonanza (blogging at Capn Marvel's Bonanza [Defunct])

The Top sees a change of direction for The Cure, which I suppose was a good thing - after all, Pornography was a dead end - where could the band go from there? More gloom and dispair? Even darker and muddier sounds? So this follow-up album heads in a different direction, bringing different moods, different styles, different influences, to create a more varied brew.

In fact, this album is quite weird sounding, especially when compared with the band's previous releases. Listening to it on headphones, the absence of a deep monochromatic well of gloom is quite noticeable. These sounds are very mixed, freaky, even dissonant at times.

The trick is though, that most of this album is quite catchy - its ten tracks are really prototype pop tunes. But instead of growing into full-fledged pop, they grow into each other and form a colourful, trippy, and corrosive jungle, consisting of flamenco guitar, Egyptian motifs, loud razing rock, Latin-like rhythms, and nerdy grooves. Believe it or not, you'll find all of that on The Top.

In fact, the album is such a mixed brew it can be a confusing first listen. For example, some songs begin like they're going to be the scariest most fearsome monsters you've ever heard, but then - after the few seconds - they become fun, catchy, tame songs. Take "Bananafishbones" - it begins with loud plodding drums and dissonant organ squeals, but the song itself is just a nerdy groove with buzzing organs and an almost catchy vocal line. Same goes for "The Caterpillar" - the intro has fast, running pianos and a violin wildly squeaking, but the song itself is a wonderful Latin-based tune (it's my favourite here - I can't get enough of that catchy little melody).

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by Reviewer: Fernando Canto (blogging at Sir Mustapha's Album Reviews [Defunct])

If the last album was eccentric, The Top is just plain bizarre. It's often referred to as The Cure's 'psychedelic album', and with good reason, for it's a strange affair no question.

Rumor has it that Smith nowadays hates this album with a passion, though I don't see why, as even though it's totally weird and Smith sounds like he's stoned the entire time, it's still a fun listen.

The Top doesn't really sound like anything else the band had done up to this point, and nothing else in their catalogue really sounds like it either. Their was a hit single called "The Caterpillar" lifted from the album, which is good fluff, but the album also has a lot more to offer.

The material is mostly much darker than the single ... "Bananafishbones" is odd without question, yet it's one of the band's more intriguing numbers, and "Shake Dog Shake" is one helluva opener, and would subsequently become a live staple and rightfully so.

The Top is easily one of The Cure's most misunderstood, least cohesive, and diverse albums. It's definitely not for everyone - it's where Smith loses his mind, then decides to record it.

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by Reviewer: Austin