Monday, September 12, 2011

The Cure-Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities 1978-2001 (The Fiction Years)

Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities 1978-2001 (The Fiction Years) is a four-disc collection of the Cure’s B-sides and rarities the band made during their time with Fiction Records. Featuring nearly five hours of music, the box-set includes all of the band’s B-sides from 1978 to 2001 remastered along with soundtrack and compilation contributions and some rarities the band has made over the years. Through each of the four discs presented on the record, the box-set showcase the band’s evolution from post-punk upstarts to one of the most popular and influential bands of the alternative rock movement.

Disc 1 (1978-1987)

The first five tracks are B-sides from the Three Imaginary Boys era of 1978-1979 as it opens with the single 10:15 Saturday Night with its upbeat yet mid-tempo rhythm, washy guitars, and creepy lyrics led by Robert Smith’s calm vocals. The three B-sides for the single Boys Don’t Cry in its original 1979 release and 1986 re-release with the first being the swift, up-tempo Plastic Passion with its energetic punk-inspired performance. The fast-paced despair of Pillbox Tales and the reggae-inspired rhythm of Do the Hansa with its swinging guitar and melodic bass lines along with quirky lyrics. I’m Cold, the B-side to Jumping Someone Else’s Train, is another upbeat track with squealing guitars, bopping rhythms, and warbled vocals through dark lyrics that features Siouxsie Sioux on backing vocals.

The next three tracks are B-side from the 1980-1981 period of Seventeen Seconds to Faith with the first of those tracks being the B-side to A Forest in the fast-paced, guitar/bass-driven instrumental Another Journey by Train. The B-side to Primary in Descent is a chilling, down-tempo instrumental filled with low bass lines and swirling guitar drives while Splintered in Her Head, the B-side to Charlotte Sometimes, is a more rhythmic track filled with rumbling beats and eerie bass that also features Smith singing haunting lyrics. The next track is a rarity called Lament (Flexipop Version) is an electronic-driven track with pulsating beats, lush guitar and bass melodies, a swooning synthesizer, and somber vocals that was recorded specifically for a magazine called Flexipop back in 1982.

The next six tracks are B-sides that was made for the band’s 1982-1983 non-LP singles where five of those B-sides were collected for the 1983 compilations release Japanese Whispers. The first is Just One Kiss, the B-side to Let’s Go to Bed, with its rumbling rhythms, soothing guitars, and Smith’s soothing vocals that is filled with imagery-laden lyrics. The three B-sides for The Walk showcase the band’s progression into electro-pop with the synthesizer-warble of The Dream, the mid-tempo yet pulsating swoon of The Upstairs Room, and a re-recorded version of Lament that is driven more by its synthesizer and a broader production. The two B-sides for The Lovecats features the mid-tempo, jazz-piano inspired Speak My Language and the upbeat Mr. Pink Eyes that features swirling guitars, crashing pianos, and bopping beats.

The next two tracks are B-sides to The Caterpillar that includes the enchanting mid-tempo track Happy the Man and the more upbeat yet swanky Throw Your Foot that plays to the band’s fascination with psychedelic and new wave. The last five tracks on the first disc are material from The Head on the Door period that includes four B-sides and a track from the Half an Octopuss & Quadpus EPs. New Day, from those EPs, is a chilling yet bopping mid-tempo piece with layers of swirling synthesizers and wailing vocals. The two B-sides from Inbetween Days include the brimming The Exploding Boy, that features a saxophone, and the bombast yet synthesizer-driven A Few Hours After This with its orchestral layers of keyboards. The B-sides for Close to Me features the upbeat electro-warble of A Man Inside My Mouth and the more mid-tempo yet synthesizer-swank of Stop Dead that shows the Cure fully embracing pop in their own terms.

Disc 2 (1987-1992)

The first eight tracks of the second disc include six B-sides and two remixes made from the Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me era. A Japanese Dream, the B-side to Why Can’t I Be You?, is an upbeat yet rumbling track with hypnotic guitar swirls and exotic lyrics. The two B-sides for Catch include the evocative, fluid synthesizer-driven ballad Breathe and the down-tempo yet throbbing A Chain of Flowers with its rich guitars and somber synthesizers. The two B-sides for Just Like Heaven feature the mid-tempo Snow in Summer, with its driving guitar and rumbling beats, and the upbeat yet melodic-swoon of Sugar Girl that features a wonderful array of keyboard arrangements.

The next three tracks are remixes of album cuts from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me that begins with a remix of Icing Sugar, from an orange vinyl bonus disc version of the album, that emphasizes more on saxophones and synthesizers rather than its rhythm. The extended 12” remix of Hey You!!!, a B-side to Hot Hot Hot!!!, features more beats and different placements on the instruments from the song. The Bob Clearmountain 7” remix of How Beautiful You Are…, from an album radio sampler, is a more polished yet shortened version of the song with more layers towards its keyboards. The rarity To the Sky, from a 1989 Fiction Records compilation Stranger than Fiction, is a lush mid-tempo track with rich arpeggio guitars, swooning synthesizers, and gorgeous vocals in tune with its dreamy lyrics.

The next four tracks are B-sides from the singles for 1989’s Disintegration with the first two tracks being B-sides to the U.K. single for Lullaby and the U.S. single for Fascination Street. Babble is an upbeat track with wailing synthesizers, driving guitars and bass, and snarling vocals. Out of Mind is an up-tempo, guitar-synthesizer heavy track with despaired vocals to play up to its dark tone. The two B-sides for Lovesong feature the lush yet pulsating 2 Late, that includes flourishing guitars, and the down-tempo yet guitar-driven Fear of Ghosts that features haunting lyrics sung quietly by Smith. The next three tracks are three different versions of the Doors’ Hello, I Love You, two of which were recorded for the Rubiyat album to celebrate Elektra Records’ 40th Anniversary. The first version is an unreleased version that is set in an eerie, down-tempo version while the second yet official version is a more upbeat, rocking version and the third is a punk-inspired, 10-second version.

The last two tracks are B-sides from singles for the 1990 Mixed Up remix album. The Never Enough B-side for the mid-tempo yet electronic-light Harold and Joe and a remix of Just Like Heaven, the B-side for the Close to Me remix single, that slows the song a bit for a smooth yet rhythmic take on the song.

Disc 3 (1992-1996)

The first seven tracks on the third disc are material made during the period for 1992’s Wish that includes six B-sides and a remix of an album cut. The two B-sides for High include the haunting yet ethereal mid-tempo track This Twilight Garden and the slight down-tempo yet gorgeous Play that are both supported by its rich production. The B-sides for Friday I’m In Love feature the swooning Halo, that includes gorgeous vocals and a wonderful bass line, and the up-tempo drive of Scared As You. The B-sides for A Letter to Elise contains the arpeggio-laden yet down-tempo The Big Hand and the mid-tempo bop of A Foolish Arrangement. The 12” Mark Saunders remix of Doing the Unstuck is a rarity that features more electronic flourishes and longer instrumental passages.

The next five tracks are contributions to compilations and soundtracks from 1993 to 1995. The first two tracks are different cover versions of Jimi Hendrix’ Purple Haze that was recorded for the 1993 Stone Free tribute album to Jimi Hendrix. The first version is an unreleased version that is more straightforward yet rocking while the second, that was for the tribute album, is a more electronic, mid-tempo version that is interesting but not as good as the other version. From the soundtrack to The Crow comes the exotic Burn that is truly mesmerizing while a cover of David Bowie’s Young Americans for an American radio compilation is a fantastic cover of the song that features a bass riff of Bowie’s The Wedding Song in the performance. From the 1995 soundtrack to Judge Dredd is The Dredd Song that is a slow yet lush electro-rock song that is a heart wrenching yet bombastic song.

The last three tracks on the third disc are B-sides to the single The 13th with the first being It Used to Be Me. The mid-tempo yet electronic-swirling song is a long but glorious B-side. The down-tempo Ocean, with its somber presentation, and the bopping yet swooning synthesizer-driven Adonais are also highlights where they prove to be better than some of the material from Wild Mood Swings.

Disc 4 (1996-2001)

The first three tracks on the fourth and final disc are B-sides to the single Mint Car with Home kicking things off that features lush strings and smooth mid-tempo rhythms. The down-tempo, guitar-drive of Waiting and the more brimming yet thrilling A Pink Dream are more indication of the material Smith could’ve chosen for the much-maligned Wild Mood Swings. The next two tracks are remixes that served as B-sides for different singles with the first being an electro-ambient mix of This Is a Lie, that appeared in the singles for the U.S. single for Strange Attraction and the U.K. single for Gone!. The second remix is for Wrong Number for its single that features more warbling vocals and pulsating beats that doesn‘t really go anywhere.

From the 1998 soundtrack to The X-Files film is More Than This, an electronic-driven ballad with melancholic lyrics and a throbbing electronic beats. From the 1998 Depeche Mode tribute album For the Masses is a cover of World in My Eyes that continues Robert Smith’s exploration with electronic music as he creates an exciting yet faithful version of the song. The next four tracks are rarities related to the 2000 album Bloodflowers that starts off with the bopping yet electronic-driven rarity Possession. The remixes for Out of This World by Paul Oakenfold and Maybe Someday by Mike Hedges, the latter for a promo CD single, has Oakenfold’s remix is a subtle, throbbing mix while Hedges’ is a bit all over the place in its placements of instruments. Coming Up, a bonus track from the Japanese/Australian version of the album, is a walloping yet guitar/keyboard-driven track that is filled with haunting vocals and esoteric lyrics.

The next three tracks are material made specifically for the 2001 greatest hits compilation as the first two are for different versions for the song Signal to Noise, a B-side to the song Cut Here. The first is the acoustic version that is a simple, mid-tempo version while the official recorded version is a more bass-heavy, shimmering take on the song. The remix of Just Say Yes by Curve is an unreleased rarity filled with pulsating industrial beats and driving guitars. The final track of the box set is an unreleased 2001 remix of A Forest by David Bowie associates Mark Plati and Earl Slick. The electronic-heavy mix with Slick’s wailing guitar is truly superb for the way the song is re-invented as it’s a fitting close to the entire set.

Released on January 27, 2004, the box set was well-received by fans and critics for the B-sides and rarities that is compiled. The album helped generate great interest for the Cure just as the band was to return months later with their self-titled album in June of that year. Yet, the box set was part of Robert Smith’s involvement with his former label Fiction in the supervision of reissues of some of the band’s albums from Three Imaginary Boys to Disintegration as of 2011.

Join the Dots is an amazing box-set of material from the Cure that hardcore fans will want to have. Notably as it offers all of the B-sides and rarities that they could have that was largely unavailable for years during the band’s hey-day. It’s also something that casual fans should look into as it offers up some amazing gems that is very superior to some of their studio cuts. In the end, Join the Dots is a sprawling yet fantastic collection of material from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

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