Book Reviews / inspiration / music

Embracing Pornography (How a Big Yet Small English Band Opened a Door to a Gray Stark Beautiful World)

I was skeptical about Cured by Lol Tolhurst; I saw the trailers and they seemed a bit suspect. I got past my wariness, read the book, and was pleasantly surprised. In fact,  I genuinely enjoyed it. Part was that Mr. Tolhurst has a knack for storytelling. Another part is that it was a treat to get an inside view of the Cure, a band I have been listening to since I was a teenager. Also, Billy Idol gets urinated on.

Lol fucked up. He became a drunk, became estranged from his best friend, and was essentially kicked out of the band he helped form. The music he helped create was a soundtrack to my coming of age. My parents had the Beatles, I had the Cure and Depeche Mode.*  I can quote the lyrics of Faith and Pornography like some people can quote the so-called classic poets.  Lol was the drummer. He played simply but effectively.** Robert Smith–a perversely under-rated lyricist–wrote about the dark side of life but in a way that exposed its beauty and poignancy. I listened to the Cure when I wrote throughout my twenties and it made me the writer I am today. You look at published writers and they will cite other authors who influenced them. I can do that as well but would have to add filmmakers like Davids Lynch and Fincher and bands like the Cure.

If we look at odds and statistics, Cured should not exist. 2016 was littered with rock casualties and Lol could have been one of them. Instead–like many people through the ages–he went to the desert to seek his fortune. Instead of borax or uranium he sought a new life away from substance abuse. I read about his travels through Mojave and thought to myself, Yep, I know the motel he stayed at.  He couch surfed, found someone to share his remaining years with, and rebuilt his life understanding that the foundation of it had to be atonement.

I was a pretentious little shit when I was 20. I didn’t abuse alcohol but I was drunk on my belief in myself: I was gonna be another Robert Smith and a published novelist. Like Lol, I had an iffy childhood. I was surrounded by alcohol abuse and believed from an early age that I could only depend on myself. I made myself a god in a terrible, twisted world. I rode around in my ‘65 Valiant listening to the first five Cure albums.*** Like most 20 year olds I knew everything; I saw life for how it really was and the world recognizing my genius and giving me a recording contract/book deal was just around the corner . My head was ten miles up my ass and now that it is extracted I tend to shake it at all the opportunities I missed and bridges I burned. Eventually I grew up and so did Lol Tolhurst. Cured tells the story of a difficult family life, of one distant parent and another who died too soon. Maybe Lol drank to kill the pain or maybe he boozed because it’s an English tradition like bad food or being reserved. His memoirs are contrite but not annoyingly so. He was a teenager when the Cure formed and a “rock star” by the time he was twenty. By the time he was thirty he was (basically) kicked out a band he helped form. There were legal battles, tenures in bands that sounded suspiciously “Cure like,” and a rebirth in the desert. There is also a happy ending that I won’t spoil.

My favorite Cure album is Pornography.  It is harsh and deranged but also terribly beautiful and cutting like a priceless crystal goblet smashed on a black marble floor. I can only listen to it on rare occasions: There is some twisted juju to it. I still listen to Seventeen Seconds and Faith on a regular basis, though; I put them on to set a mood when working on novels. There is poetry in despair and beauty in life’s darker moments. Robert Smith’s talent is capturing that. He plays jazz channeled through Hell and moans poems the color of rain. Lol was the heartbeat behind those songs in the days when the band was inspired and volatile; he gave them a simple but effective propulsion. Thirty years later his writing, like his style behind a drum kit, is straightforward yet effective. I couldn’t put Cured down. Maybe it was the way he told the story or maybe it was the treat of “getting inside” a band I have always loved. If you are into the Cure or the post-punk scene I definitely recommend Cured.

*Okay, I have always loved the Beatles, as well.

** I taught myself to play drums along to Three Imaginary Boys, the debut album by the Cure.

*** I am including Japanese Whispers. It’s basically a collection of three singles and their b-sides but I love it, still do. Especially Lament. That is album four. Album five is The Top which I have always felt is underrated. It’s a weird, beautiful, fucked up, utterly original album. Pornography is PCP, The Top is mushrooms.

Have you checked out my book Golden Bullet yet?

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