The Cure

Gifted Quacks

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The Cure's 1991 Unplugged broadcast is so familiar now that there can't be many ways left to repackage it, although neglecting to identify it on the sleeve, muffling the sound, and snipping off the closing track is certainly one way of going about it. For the uninitiated, Unplugged remains one of the shining jewels in the Cure's archival crown, one more of those tantalizing chunks which peep just above the surface, but have yet to receive a full release: Sundry B-sides and a couple of cassette-only extras join it in that category, and with the Cure fans' fanaticism well-known to all, there is little wonder that such things have been churned out ad nauseam. The problem with Gifted Quacks, though, is not that there can't be many people left on the planet who don't own a copy of Unplugged, it's that the rest of the disc is so damned good -- if brief. The whole thing lasts just 45 minutes. The live material, too, is doubtlessly readily available elsewhere, and if you already own anything else from the band's 1992 European tour, you can probably pass on this one. But if you don't -- beginning with a dense, hooky "Strange Days," through the arachno-nastiness of "Lullaby" and the sound of a stadium full of kiddies clapping along to a song about being eaten alive by spiders, a triumphant "Primary," a translucent "In Between Days," and a stunning (but prematurely faded) "A Forest," Gifted Quacks reminds one just what a great live band the Cure can be and how astonishing it is that they are. Custom built for cult obscurity, they shook off those shackles and never stopped rising. Forget all those other fraudulent claimants: If you really want to find the new Rolling Stones, look no further than this.

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