100 Works of Art: (Audio) Let’s Go To Bed, The Cure

Having dispensed with visual art, the 100 Works of Art rambling about stuff I like has moved on to music. This is simultaneously more and less intimidating: it’s harder to talk bollocks about music and sound impressive because more people know what you’re on about at entry level and you have to step it up and get technical, which I assuredly cannot do about music.

26. Let’s Go To Bed, The Cure (1987)

My relationship with The Cure was brief but intense, like most things during sixth form college. Due to an accident of good timing I went from being a dedicated little bedroom goth to being the sudden proud owner of several very large posters, two video compilations of their music videos, one live video, and a couple of mix tapes of rare recordings for twenty quid from someone in the pub my friend worked at. This was the first and last time I ever managed to strike lucky on the “dodgy people in pubs” front.

With a catalogue spanning about as many years as I’ve been alive, if not more, and a slew of extremely catchy pop-goth chart songs as well as the more gloriously dreary grey-hued extrusions of Pornography, it’s difficult to pick a Cure song. Aside from being Cure Songs, majestic in their ridiculous storytelling and Fat Bob’s whining voice, they have personal connections: Friday I’m In Love from long before I tried my hand at backcombing my hair, bleating from a shitty clock-radio while I read children’s fantasy novels in my bedroom, or the later terrible half-choreographed goth two-step at B-Movie to Love Cats every month. There was the ongoing relationship between the whole of the KissMeKissMeKissMe album and the lurid, lustrous, purple Poppy Z Brite novels and atrocious short stories about vampires I read while listening to it and scrawling notes in pink biro. I have been every teenage cliché and many of them while listening to Fat Bob’s fab band.

Let’s Go To Bed is at its heart a tug-o-war. It is an uptempo song with slightly sinister and melancholy lyrics – a combination you’re going to see a lot of in this section because it is possibly my favourite kind of song (“I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things”, quoth Tom Waits, and I could not agree more) – and the tug-o-war is as much between the imagist nonsense of the verses and the straightforwards, unpoetic stubbornness of the subtly changing choruses as between the “I” and the “you” of the song.

But I don’t care if you don’t
And I don’t feel if you don’t
And I don’t want it if you don’t
And I won’t say it
If you won’t say it first

The chorus is an ugly dare, and in a world of songs about how love would go so right, or where love has gone wrong and I’m sorry, baby (or how we’re going to hump it all night, because emotional fulfilment is no longer the euphemistic core of lyrics that it once was),  it’s almost off-puttingly realistic. Certainly I’ve been in more than one relationship where it seemed there was precisely this kind of brinkmanship going on: I’m going to bite my fucking tongue and not say it until you do. I’ve used it as the basis of characterisation in numerous stories, because that ugly dare is an excellent source of tension as one or more characters struggle to force the other/s to spill their guts while reining back their own compulsive need to confess BUT I DIGRESS.

The music reinforces the sense of push-and-pull, with a very quick movement (technical terms: I do not know them) up and down the scale in what sounds like two-steps: the bass has the same two-part step, which really does put me in mind of some sort of dance where one partner tries to yank the other in one direction, and is immediately yanked backwards themselves. It’s a neat trick, and one which for me holds the song together through the drawn out breaths of the verses with their more photographic and less emotional lyricism.

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