When is a cover song better than the original? Only you can decide. This week the Get Up Kids take on the Cure’s “Close To Me.” MAGNET’s Ryan Burleson pulls the pin. Take cover!
The concept of artist development has evolved dramatically since the Cure was formed by three school friends in 1976. Today, for various reasons, it seems that bands rarely survive past a second or third album, unless at least some semblance of success is quickly and readily visible. Perhaps it’s the fault of the internet, with its ever-available stream of criticism or, conversely, its knocking down of the barriers to entry, giving more established acts greater competition. Or maybe it’s purely an economic argument, one certainly not divorced from said concerns. Labels are now experiencing financial shortfalls on an abysmal, cataclysmic scale, putting the imperative on their budding artists to prove their worth quickly or else. (Of course it could be, as my father in-law might suggest, that today’s generation is simply “softer” than those who came before, though I’m fairly certain anyone at my age could take Robert Smith if it came to blows.)
This situation is intriguing when considering the Cure’s 1985 album, The Head On The Door, which features “Close To Me.” The band’s seventh full-length release since its debut arrived in 1979, it was the first to break Billboard‘s album chart in the U.S., peaking at number 59. Moreover, the LP’s toned-down experimentalism and revved-up pop sensibility managed to win over mainstream fans without betraying the Cure’s proud cult following. Indeed, Head arguably marks the point where the Cure’s career actually began in the U.S. (as we best conceive it), setting Smith and Co. up for another two-plus decades of sold-out arena tours and towering chart successes, all while the myth of the Cure as a “cult” band continued to gain steam.
Interesting, isn’t it? If you were able to go back in time, say to the mid-’90s, to discuss the Cure with any number of my eyeliner-wearing peers from middle school, they would likely tell you that Smith and Co. were obscure and under-appreciated while they were together. (Yes, I know they’re still together.) Against all odds, kids will probably be saying the same thing about Radiohead in decades to come.
But, the point isn’t really about semantics. The point is that, whatever the circumstances, the Cure persevered long after most bands would’ve called it quits. Imagine the Killers or Arcade Fire putting out seven records before they attained a global reach today. Or how critics would discuss the Cure if the band had started in the late-’90s, jumping the shark by its fourth LP, as many predictably proclaimed when Interpol issued its self-titled record last year. Many said the same thing about the Get Up Kids by the time they called it quits in 2005, after releasing only four albums. What gives?
The question is seemingly impossible to answer conclusively. Nonetheless, it must be put to rest, for our real aim here to pit a (very worthy) cover against its original. And that, perhaps more than anything else considered here, is definitely worth your attention.