The Cure

The Drowning Man

Composed by Simon Gallup / Robert Smith / Laurence Tolhurst

Song Review by

One of the most harrowing, unnerving songs the Cure ever wrote, both in imagery and in the something's-about-to-happen musical performance, "The Drowning Man" is a magnificent, perversely majestic number which still plumbs deep depths. The lyrics do not concern such a figure -- as with many of Robert Smith's seemingly over-the-top images, it is meant as an empathetic metaphor, focusing on the key line "Breathing like a drowning man." As a tale of utter romantic collapse, though, the song is no less horrifying, with details of "bright birds" departing, noting the beloved's "frozen body sliding downward," and the simple but deadly effective wish that it all "could have been a story." Lol Tolhurst's shuffling drums set the initial pace as Smith's wordless vocals echo lost and forlorn in the distance, his guitars and Simon Gallup's bass quick and nervy, creating rising chords that far from being uplifting sound like they're going to collapse in on themselves at any moment. Slabs of echo make Smith sound even more distanced, with slight piano and synth-drum parts punctuating the energetic but utterly bereft performance.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Faith 1981 Elektra 4:49
...Happily Ever After 1981 A&M 4:50
3 for 1 2000 WEA International 4:48
No Image P&c Productions