Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sleep When I'm Dead/Down Under



Of all the new released singles by The Cure, Sleep When I'm Dead is the most lackluster, in my mind. I really really like the somewhat derivative-but-still-charming The Only One, and I love the post-punk funk of Freakshow.

But this isn't to imply that Sleep is a bad song at all. It's just that, to my ears, it's the least inspired single lyrically and structurally. The high-pitched vocals are delivered with potent urgency, which gives fire to the song, and the rhythmic throb lends the tune an almost dark wave/disco feel. And of course, Porl's wah guitar is again fiercely prominent.

Some people have lamented that the studio version of Sleep When I'm Dead is rather inert, and does not match the raw energy of the live song. But I prefer the studio version because it is more dreamily textured. I like the paradox of sounds - the ethereal vocals melting within a cauldron of guitars and percussion. Interestingly, but certainly not crucially, the original song is an actual relic from the "Head on the Door" sessions. And indeed, it does sound a bit like Head's "Baby Screams" meshed with Kiss Me's "Torture." But let's not dwell on comparisons - a rather sloppy tactic of the unimaginative.

Lyrically, the song is a mixture of comical surrealism (childlike references to animals abound) and snooze-inducing banality ("take one for the team"). There are, however, a few interesting lines, such as "THAT'S A GREEN EYED PANIC CLIMB TO THE EDGE OF NOWHERE," the weird sense of which could have been exploited more throughout the song, to give eager lyric-dissectors more tools to work with. However, I can appreciate that the lyrics likely have more import that I am able to discern at this point.

Despite my reservations, Sleep When I'm Dead is a savory, mercurial song that begs to be turned up to illegal levels to absorb its full impact.

B-side Down Under is the second best song of the entire batch, in my assessment (Freakshow b-side All Kinds of Stuff being the best). It is dreamily remiscent of Wish b-sides like This Twilight Garden. Texturally, the song almost sounds like it's imitating the lyrical content, which involves the sea somehow - either symbolically or otherwise. The song is practically "drowned in sound" - swimming amidst a guitar mimicking sea-creature sounds, and floating bass-lines. It's really the most complex of all the songs, musically and lyrically. The lyrics are likely sexual in nature, although compulsive analysis has yet to confirm this. Lines like, "Disguise the stroke/entice them out/call out their number" are highly evocative, and perhaps the song truly is about an incident of "aqua-erotica." But the lyrics are opaque enough in other areas as to defy tidy deconstruction. Or perhaps I lack discernment. Anything is possible, really.

2 comments:

DJ scribbles said...

i too think that the bsides from the singles are wish influenced, with a bit of wild mood swings thrown in amongst their other past albums.
interesting review cat, and for the most part i agree with you.

ha - you were right about the bunny! :P

Dee said...

down under, the only one, snow white, sleep when dead... aren't what i expected from the cure. felt disappointed by the dream album.