Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The Only One/New York Trip Review
The Only One/New York Trip
When I first heard “The Only One” on a live video clip, to say that I was underwhelmed would be well, an understatement. I was downright disillusioned! The Cure’s 2004 self-titled album features one of my most cherished Cure pop songs, “The End of the World,” which delivered a fresh interpretation of the classic Cure sound. But “The Only One” sounded to me like a redunandant reworking of the done-to-death bright-and-happy Cure sound, and I wanted nothing to do with it. And indeed, when the studio version was released, I became even more distraught, because I thought this was the direction the Cure was headed: the band meekly yielding to what fans wanted (another Wish), rather than bravely delving into newer musical perspectives.
But it took the next single, “Freakshow,” actually, to convince me that “The Only One” was, after all, a great song. Not because “Freakshow “ is a bad song - indeed, I love it, as I will discuss later - but because it is a slight departure from what some hold to be the signature Cure sound. And this taught me that okay, it’s fine if the band does a bit of Cure-by-numbers as long as they persist in experimenting with other genres as well. After all, The Cure’s trademark is daring diversity.
So yeah, “The Only One” finally grew on me, to the point to where I actually love it - almost more than “The End of the World,” but not quite. True, it’s derivative of songs like “High,” and I do love “High,” but it also bears its own quirky charms. For one, its lyrics exude less of the woozy romantic sentiment like “High” or “Just Like Heaven”; they start off softly yearning, but soon turn brazenly bawdy.
In a way, the lyrics’ erotic edge diminishes the boyish melody, but they are also what give the song a unique stamp: its refusal to cater to childlike notions of romance. Instead, the lyrics assert a bold sexuality; rather than ooze delicious innuendo, they are explicitly lascivious in nature. For some Cure fans, this could be disconcerting - what’s a 50-year old man doing meowing about carnal pleasures, usually held to be the sacred province of youth? But for others - the less provincial ones? - it’s refreshing, because that is EXACTLY what a 50 year old SHOULD be doing: brashly celebrating life and libido.
Lyrically, too, the song continues the legacy of Seussian-Smith parallels - word-pairing reversals (“slip/slide” - “slide/slip”), whimsical word play (“hazier,” “mazier”), pervasive internal rhyme and so on.
“The Only One,” like so many Cure singles, is wonderfully infectious and showcases Smith’s proclivity for crooning in a higher register to embellish the song’s frisky mood.
Indeed, one could charge Smith with overplaying the falsetto flourishes, and perhaps he could rein it in a bit. But then I figure, as long as he doesn’t do it on every song, and as long as the flourishes “fit” with what the song is trying to achieve, then I see no harm.
“The Only One “ is thoroughly engaging Cure-pop, if a bit derivative. Thankfully there are graphic lyrical twists to keep us indecently entertained.
The b-side, “New York Trip” is an understated piece whose chief allure lies in its meandering structure. Musically it somewhat echoes "Wild Mood Swings," anchored as it is with a mildly groovy beat. The piano, too, is featured nicely, giving the song more melodic import. Lyrically the song sometimes recalls tunes from "The Top," with hallucinatory lines like,
I SWEAR THEY’RE WHALES
SWIMMING DOWN THE LINE
SPITTING MONKEY TAILS…
Other times the lyrics fall back onto overly familiar Cure cliches and don’t offer up anything terribly distinctive. But all in all it’s a solid song, although to my ears the weakest of the released b-sides.