Friday, August 15, 2008
The Perfect Boy/Without You Review
The Perfect Boy/Without You
Allow me to start off on an aggressively exuberant note: The Perfect Boy is fucking fabulous. Don't let anyone tell you differently. If they do, kick them in the nuts or ovaries. Better yet, poke their eardrums out with an excruciatingly sharp object. Anyone who dislikes The Perfect Boy does not deserve to listen to music anymore. The Perfect Boy is The Perfect Song, period.
I did not always feel this way, of course. Indeed, The Perfect Boy is responsible for putting me through some rather wildly anguishing mood swings. The first time I heard the live version of the song (through You Tube), I thought, "What the hell is this generic crap?" But then I gradually grew to love its simple structure and teenage angst-soaked lyrics. The soaring vocals and garagey guitar riff nicely complement each other.
And then the studio version hit the stores, and I became absolutely distraught when I heard it. The song features some reverb vocal effects on the chorus that had been lacking in the live versions. For me, the "Ooooooooooooooooooh girl" worked so elegantly well without any technical embellishments. So, the vocal effects seemed like overkill, and they ruined the song for me.
But the very next day, something happened, and it struck me that the vocal effects add texture and tension to the song. The live version is more endearlingly naive and straightforward, but the studio version has more dynamic depth. I love them both for these reasons. In a way I slightly prefer the the live version, but I think that is because it is so firmly etched into my memory. That is the peril of hearing songs live first.
Lyrically, the song narrates a story about two stock characters - a girl who wishes for a utopian romance with a boy who is merely interested in a casual carnal tryst. It shows a glaring contrast between two styles of amorous attachment, as it were.
The lyrical structure is by now a very familiar Robert Smith poetic device. Some people have complained that he overuses this device, but I would counter that his lyrics always showcase so many different styles that they defy pigeonholing. I personally love the structure he employs here and in songs like Bloodflowers, with the syntactical symmetry and parallel affirmation/ negation:
" 'YOU AND ME ARE THE WORLD"
"NOTHING ELSE IS REAL
THE TWO OF US IS ALL THERE IS
THE REST IS JUST A DREAM…
ALWAYS MEANT TO BE
I CAN FEEL IT
LIKE A DESTINY THING
WRITTEN IN THE STARS
Yeah IT'S OUT OF MY HANDS
FALLING INTO YOUR ARMS' "
" ' Oh GIRL!
HE IS THE ONE FOR SURE
HE IS THE PERFECT BOY' "
" 'Yeah ME AND YOU ARE A WORLD"
"BUT NOT THE ONLY ONE I NEED
THE TWO OF US IS NEVER ALL THERE IS
THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN FOR REAL
IF IT WAS MEANT TO BE US
IT WAS MEANT TO BE NOW
DON'T SEE THE SENSE IN WASTING TIME
IF YOU'RE SO SURE ABOUT THIS
LAUREL KISMET HARDY THING
YOU KNOW TONIGHT YOU'RE MINE' "
In that last quoted verse, of course, the boy flippantly derides what he deems to be the girl's naive notions of eternal love. At first glance, the cryptic fragment, "Laurel Kismet Hardy thing," eludes interpretation, but after some careful scrutiny, ends up being the most intriguing bit of the whole song. Apparently it's alluding to the comical duo, Laurel and Hardy - and according to some, a combination of that and Horatio Nelson's last words, which have been wrongly quoted throughout the years.* It's an unusual and sardonic way of saying, "Okay, fine, you believe in that destiny bullshit?"
As the song is winding down, the girl becomes painfully aware of the fact that her chosen suitor is far from ideal:
HE'S NOT THE ONE FOR SURE
HE'S NOT SO WONDERFUL
HE'S NOT THE ONE FOR SURE
HE'S NOT THE PERFECT BOY AT ALL"
At the very end, it becomes clear that despite the obstacles, her relentless search for the perfect boy will persist.
Pure brilliance. There is nothing overly wrought here - just scintillatingly simple verse that weaves a compelling tale.
Emotionally, the song wraps melancholy, humor, exuberance, wonder, and tension into one gorgeous package - all mainly owing to Robert Smith's vocals, which, though they are mixed too loudly at times, remain captivating and evocative.
The Perfect Boy is one of the best Cure pop songs. I am partial to Freakshow for its edgy quirkiness, but The Perfect Boy is shimmering and wrenching, and has abundant potential to be a massive hit - if only the world would listen.
*Thanks to discerning posters at Chain of Flowers for this bit of information.
I can't comment right now on the b-side, Without You, because I need many more listens to fully absorb it. I don't quite grasp it musically at all; lyrically it seems to be about a failed romance or a message from Robert Smith to disgruntled fans.