Pictures of You

The Cure

Song Review by Bill Janovitz

This is the Cure at their best: a gorgeous, shimmering two-chord cascade of synthesizer slabs, interweaving guitar and bass lines, passionate singing and romantic lyrics from Robert Smith. Two chords are all that Smith needs for a foundation upon which to effortlessly construct one of his exquisite melancholy melodies. The brooding vocalist has a perfect voice for the material, a voice so expressive and commanding that Smith seems to possess an innate and acute understanding of just what notes to economically choose to convey his particular brand of introverted heartbreak. The dense soundscape of the song is representative of the interior depths that Smith plumbs in his lyric. On the page, the words are little more than slightly overwrought, even sophomoric love clichés, but Smith pulls of the Romantic (in the literary sense) with a confident deftness and delivers them with an unquestionable sincerity. Interestingly, the band had long outgrown their goth rock categorization (though, it had always been a dubious pigeonhole) by the 1989 LP Disintegration, and in the lyric of "Pictures of You," Smith actually veers as close as he ever had to the stark and decaying sort of beauty that his more decidedly goth contemporaries aimed for: "Remembering you fallen into my arms/Crying for the death of your heart/You were stone white, so delicate/Lost in the cold /You were always so lost in the dark/Remembering you, how you used to be/Slow drowned, you were angels/So much more than everything/Hold for the last time then slip away quietly /Open my eyes but I never see anything."

There was no other band, at the time -- save New Order -- that was as successful at combining such memorable melodies, dance beats, contemporary electronic instrument sounds, and more traditional and organic rock & roll guitar textures. But while New Order tended to be even more taciturn and oblique in their lyrics, Smith seemed more willing to open up his narrators' -- and by extension, his own --- interior world to his audience, even at the risk of a potentially more risky vulnerability. Perhaps he was quite aware that his now-enormous legion of adoring fans (at the time of the release of this LP, the band was at a commercial peak) were more than eager to hear his lovelorn and wistful tales of heartbreak.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Galore: The Singles 1987-1997 1997 Elektra 4:48