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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The Cure
The Top [reissue]

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

August 30, 2006
After the dark, gothic, moody aural terror of Pornography, it was not clear in exactly what direction Robert Smith would take the Cure. After paring his band down to basically just himself and the drug-addled Laurence Tolhurst, Smith could have easily continued down the dark path he had been pacing nervously upon. And let's not forget the aforementioned drugs, as Tolhurst wasn't the only one over-indulging. As explained in the booklet accompanying this reissue, a typical recording session would consist of several hours at the pub, followed by a magic mushroom brew and an all-night stint in the studio.

The psychedelic influence of mind-altering substances is readily apparent on The Top, the record that fits the gap perfectly between Pornography and the record that would turn the Cure into international superstars, The Head on the Door. Beginning with the squawking self-deprecation of "Shake Dog Shake," one of Smith's angriest and distorted-guitar heavy tracks (a precursor to Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me's "The Kiss"), the Cure boldly show their intentions of moving in a completely new direction. The Top is a strange record, mixing sounds from the Middle East ("Wailing Wall") and Flamenco guitars ("Birdmad Girl") with manic freak-outs like "Give Me It" and "Bananafishbones." The album also finds Smith trying out different voices, many of which would become more familiar as the Cure's career skyrocketed. He admits to consciously doing this, especially on the track "Dressing Up," where his singing develops into extended wailing and moaning. "The Caterpillar" was the "hit" single from this period, and Cure fans of that era must have wondered if Smith had eaten one mushroom too many, as his "flickas" flicker and skitter over children's piano and congas. "Piggy in the Mirror," another song full of self-loathing, anchors the second half of the album, before it descends into the title track, a song that sounds like an updated version of "Faith."

The second disc of this set contains the various demos and live tracks that will be familiar to those who have purchased the reissues preceding this one. Many of these are interesting more for their historical context than being essential parts of one's collection - listening to stripped down versions clearly recorded on an 8-track is only really engaging for the most adamant Cure fan. The live tracks however, are well-recorded glimpses into the band's sound at the time, and as many of these are out of the rotation of their live set, it's nice to get to hear them performed on stage. The Top is not on the top (sorry, had to be done) of many Cure fan's lists, including Papa Cure himself, who has called it "the worst Cure record ever made." It's hard to view it in this context now, as it not only appears to be a needed step in the band's evolution but a solid album in its own right.

Reviewed by Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other reviews by Jonah Flicker



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