Though Rhino Record's Deluxe Edition of Three Imaginary Boys has a few of the goods, the definitive document of early Cure is still the US cassette edition of Boys Don't Cry.
Three Imaginary Boys [Deluxe Edition]
29 Nov 2004 (UK) / 7 Dec 2004 (US)Other
The Cure. Another band that should have packed it in long ago. Robert Smith keeps promising that each new Cure album is the last, but never has the balls to just go ahead and do that solo work that he's always talking about. Not since back in the '80s when he was all fried on drugs and paranoia and actually broke up the band to go be a part of Siouxsie and the Banshees has he had the will to stick to his guns. But of course, even then the Cure came back, as they always did.
Hey, I have all the albums, save for the abysmal Paris and Show. This would include the equally abysmal everything post-The Head on the Door. Oh sure, those albums each have a couple good tracks on them, but I've never been of the mind that Disintegration was a masterpiece. If anything, it's more annoying than Pornography in that it runs way too long. Yes, it would seem that after the bout of double-album diarrhea that was Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Smith and Co. decided that 3/4 of their tunes had to have ridiculously long intros and outros. Does anyone even actually listen to Wish all the way through? And Bloodflowers, with tunes pushing the 12-minute mark, was just incredibly boring.
So why do I keep up with this band? Good question. Perhaps it's just hoping in vain that they'll eventually get around to making another album as great as Boys Don't Cry, their US debut. Back when it started, the Cure was completely accessible and fun to boot. The band had the snarkiness of both Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello running through its tunes while adding its own unique sound to the mix. For me, the only Cure albums anyone really needs in order to glean the entire scope of their ideas and sound are Boys Don't Cry, Seventeen Seconds, and The Head on the Door. These three albums have enough light and gloom that when taken all together, doesn't over stay its welcome.
But when I say Boys Don't Cry, I want to be sure you know I mean the US cassette version of the album. Why? Because it includes the great tune "World War", which as left off the US CD edition for some reason and replaced with "So What", a stupid song that first appeared on the Cure's UK debut Three Imaginary Boys. A song so stupid that it features Smith reciting lines off a package of sugar. So there you have it. I'm still waiting for a definitive US CD remaster of Boys Don't Cry with "World War", plus all the other tunes that made up the differences between the tape and disc versions.
I thought that was what would finally be delivered with the newly expanded and remastered two-disc bonanza edition of Three Imaginary Boys: the original album on one disc and a whole bunch of rarities from 1977-1979 on the other. Well, I was mistaken. Though it does finally offer "World War" on CD (a song that Smith apparently hates by the way, proving that he doesn't even recognize his own best work), there is no "Plastic Passion" or "Killing An Arab", both of which of course appeared on Boys Don't Cry. Yes, I'm aware that "Plastic Passion" got re-routed to that abysmal Join The Dots box set as a b-side, and that "Killing An Arab" was released as a separate single, but when the well-known versions of "Boys Don't Cry" and "Jumping Someone Else's Train" appear on the second disc here as an "extra album track", why not add the other two well-knowns and dump such piffle as the last three unexciting live takes of "Subway Song", "Accuracy", and "10:15 Saturday Night"?
Even in its original state, Three Imaginary Boys pales in comparison to Boys Don't Cry in any version. This is partially due to the missing tracks, as cited above, and also due to lesser tunes that appeared on this album such as the lousy cover of "Foxy Lady" and originals like "Meathook" and "The Weedy Burton". Plus, the running order of Boys Don't Cry just sounds and feels better, and well, just is better in the end. It's funny what a few tacked on singles and b-sides will do for an album at times.
As far as the sound quality goes for the remaster, it's as good as it can be, I suppose. I never thought the old version of either album sounded bad, so if there was major cleanup done to the master tapes, it's not anything that's necessarily going to jump out at you. As for those rarities, well I'm sure the hardcore fans will argue over what is and what isn't included (just as I have done). Many will be thrilled, I'm sure, that "Heroin Face" is on here, and I was happy to have the demo version of "Boys Don't Cry" that originally appeared on the tape Concert that also included Cure Anomalies that wasn't on the CD version. However, how many damn versions of "10:15 Saturday Night" do we need? Well, there are three here to choose from. There are also curios such as "I Want To Be Old", "The Cocktail Party", and "Winter" that may or may not make one feel justified in buying this "deluxe" edition.
So as I said, I'm still waiting for a definitive, single-disc remaster of Boys Don't Cry. It's probably never going to happen, but who knows? In this day and age of remastering and re-releasing everything in the vaults, some ideas are best left on a piece of paper. I can't help but think that this version of Three Imaginary Boys is one such idea. Alas, just because you have a bunch of tunes lying about in your closet doesn't mean you should make folks actually go out and spend money on them. But then again, it seems that Robert Smith has never been afraid of the almighty dollar, so what's a bit more product? I'm sure he needs some extra funds for his makeup kit.
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