A Perfect Dream is the new illustrated biography of goth superstars, The Cure. It’s a coffee table sized tome from journalist Ian Gittins. You may know Gittins from his books on Talking Heads, U2, Bjork, Enimem and The Da Vinci Code? There are no world-spanning conspiracies here, thankfully, just the story of the band and their rise to world-spanning success.
The Cure are probably best known for the duality of their miserabilist albums and, their contrastingly joyous pop singles. This dichotomy between the lightness of their pop tunes and the bleak, atmospheric feel to their work as a whole, was first illustrated to me by my Dad buying Wish. He was so enamoured with the hit singles, ‘Friday, I’m in Love’ and ‘High’ that he went out and bought the record. His disappointment and growing fury as ‘High’ led into ‘Apart’ and ‘From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea’ seemed to put him off buying original music. To the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t done so since. He shelved the CD and it went untouched until I picked it up for a listen. Knowing them only from their hits, it was shocking to hear the depressive tone of the record but it soon grew to be a favourite.
This split musical personality wasn’t unique to The Cure in ‘80s Britain. Madness, amongst others, ascended the charts with a succession of irresistible hits while tackling serious, social themes. In the era of Thatcher, Reagan, The Cold War, and conspicuous unemployment, The Nutty Boys reflected the concerns and issues of the world around them. Meanwhile, The Cure directed their creative eye inwards. What they found inside themselves was as grim and foreboding as the political landscape of the time (or that of modern times).
Gittins writing style is clunky. It’s often necessary to re-read sentences to discern their meaning. Nonetheless, he tells a good story, and his emphasis on interpersonal relationships adds depth to the history. A Perfect Dream isn’t the definitive history of the band, by any measure, but there are many in-depth biographies of The Cure available; the author makes extensive use of quotations from Lol Tolhurst’s recent autobiography, and Jeff Apter’s Never Enough from 2009. The real advantage that this book has is its timing. While plenty has been written about the early days of the band and their breakthrough as a stadium band, A Perfect Dream has the opportunity to reflect on their later work. Bloodflowers, The Cure and 4:13 Dream are rarely considered for retrospectives but here, Gittins gives them their due deference and consideration.
The real appeal of this book is visual. It’s large scale and full of photos, going as far back as the band’s first demo recording so, visually, it ticks all the boxes. Those grainy black and white snaps of Robert Smith before he became the pantomime dame of nightmares are compelling. Images of the frontman in a Rupert The Bear jacket, with neatly cropped hair, a well-defined chin, and trousers pulled up to his navel are immediately striking. You can watch the band's image grow as the music does; from the nascent, unrefined post-punk of Three Imaginary Boys through the blooming, dark blossoms of their back-combed ‘80s pomp, to their 40th anniversary and their confirmation as a heritage act. A Perfect Dream isn’t the definitive Cure document, and nor does it pretend to be, but it is an enjoyable read and a feast for the eyes. The ageing goth in your life will love it.
Publisher: Palazzo Editions Ltd