Standing on a Beach/Staring at the Sea is a best-of compilation album from the Cure that chronicles their 17 singles from 1979’s Three Imaginary Boys to 1985’s The Head on the Door. While it’s not the first compilation the band released as it was preceded with 1983’s Japanese Whispers that chronicled the band’s three non-LP singles and five B-sides from November of 1982 to November of 1983. Standing on a Beach does however contain those three singles plus the fourteen tracks that were released as promotional releases that captured the band’s journey from a post-punk trio to a whimsical Goth-pop band towards the mid-1980s. The result is a stellar yet rich best-of album from the Cure.
The first four tracks are from the Three Imaginary Boys period that consists of three non-LP singles. The first is the controversial Killing An Arab that is led by a bopping tempo with Robert Smith’s swooning, Arabian-style guitar as he sings lyrics about a man arriving into a world where he kills an Arab man. The lyrics are inspired by Albert Camus’ The Stranger though it isn’t an anti-Arab song as it’s one of the band’s key singles. 10:15 Saturday Night from Three Imaginary Boys is a mid-tempo track with washy guitars and eerie lyrics from Smith. The non-LP singles in the upbeat melancholia of Boys Don’t Cry and the fast-driving yet abstract Jumping Someone Else’s Train follow presenting the band in their early post-punk sound.
The next six tracks are from the band’s early Gothic period of the albums Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography plus the non-LP single Charlotte Sometimes. From Seventeen Seconds is a shortened version of A Forest, that appears with its dark lyrics and swirling synthesizers, and the bass-driven yet rhythmic snarl of Play For Today. From Faith, there’s the high-octane yet chilling drive of Primary and the haunting mid-tempo song Other Voices that furthers the Cure’s sound into Goth. The non-LP single Charlotte Sometimes is an electronic-driven piece with somber lyrics that shows the band evolving in terms of production. From Pornography is The Hanging Garden with its pummeling beat and angry lyrics that shows the band at the peak of their Gothic period.
The next three tracks are non-LP singles from late 1982 to late 1983 that would be compiled for the mini-compilation release Japanese Whispers. The first is Let’s Go to Bed, a song that is in the vein of the new wave with melodic synthesizers, thumping rhythms, and Smith’s biting lyrics that is one of the band’s defining singles. The Walk is a fast, pulsating synthesizer-driven song with wailing melodies and driving bass lines as Smith sings morose yet esoteric lyrics. The Lovecats is a jazz-inspired track with thumping bass lines, striking pianos, and wailing synthesizers that features quirky yet playful lyrics inspired by the works of Australian novelist Patrick White.
From 1984’s The Top is the abstract yet acoustic-driven The Caterpillar that shows the Cure going into pop with different instruments and ideas while maintaining a bit of melancholia to their sound. The last three tracks on album are from 1985’s The Head on the Door that includes the upbeat anguish of Inbetween Days and a remixed version of the playful fear of Close to Me that features a brass section for this album. The last track of the compilation is the somber yet heavy drive of A Night Like This that features a wailing saxophone for the song.
Released on May 6, 1986, the album was released in different formats as the CD version was called Staring at the Sea while the vinyl was called Standing on a Beach. While the CD and VHS release containing all of the singles plus four extra tracks that weren’t released as singles but featured music videos for these songs. The VHS version featured a new vocal mix for Boys Don’t Cry that doesn’t appear in any recorded format. The vinyl and cassette version featured all thirteen singles though the cassette version also featured twelve B-sides on its B-side. The record would prove to be a major hit as it helped increase the Cure’s audience in the U.S. at that time.
Standing on a Beach/Staring at the Sea is a superb best-of compilation of the Cure. While all of the songs, with the exception of Killing An Arab, appear in remastered versions in the 2001 Greatest Hits album plus reissues from 2004 to 2006. This record still has an exceptional quality to the music while it is also a great introduction to people new to the band that wants an in-depth look into their early period of 1979-1985. In the end, Standing on a Beach/Staring at the Sea is a glorious best-of album from the Cure.
The Cure Studio Albums: Three Imaginary Boys - Seventeen Seconds - Faith - Pornography - The Top - The Head on the Door - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me - Disintegration - Wish - Wild Mood Swings - Bloodflowers - The Cure - 4:13 Dream
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