14 August 2007

Rock epic of the month: "A Forest" (The Cure) 1980

This is post number 150 for Dikkii's Diatribe, which is a big event. Another big event is the grand launch of another series of posts where I'll look back on classic examples of what I think is the greatest excess of rock and roll - the rock epic.

The rock epic is something that loads of rock bands try to pull off - sometimes well, and sometimes not so well. There are no hard and fast rules for what a rock epic actually is, but the general agreement is that it needs to go for more than 6 minutes and has long bits where there are no vocals.

In a trifecta of big events, The Cure are in town. So to celebrate, I'm going to profile a tune that is really lucky to be here in this post, given that its length on The Cure's second album, Seventeen Seconds, comes up just short of six minutes by a measly five seconds.

In concert, however, the band stretches this one out to unbelievable lengths.

The Cure managed to nail all their trademarks by their second album, which is a fairly good effort. And the best examples of these were all contained within this tune. Loping basslines courtesy of Simon Gallup who had just joined the band. Robert Smith's heavily chorused guitars and anguished vocals - he really does do a wonderful impression of a cat in heat. Laurence "Lol" Tolhurst was the drummer in the band at this point in time, and he actually did provide a reasonable military-style beat, even if the snare on this is heavily treated. And the keyboards, courtesy of Matthieu Hartley, who was only a member of the band for Seventeen Seconds. Oh, I crack me up.

The song itself only has one real chord progression the whole way through, with a couple of middle 8s just to break it up. The middle 8s see Smith switching to what sounds like a flanger for a remarkable shimmering effect, but for most of the rest of the tune, Smith is happy to solo away to his heart's content.

I'm not going to show the actual video - it's a hand-held camera going through a forest - but I will show this scorching version performed in Japan in 1984. You'll get the idea.

If I get time later this week, I may do a bit of a retrospective of this band.

Seminal stuff.


Anonymous said...

The Mixed Up album has a "tree mix" of A Forest that is 6:56, so it's safely an epic.

KitKat said...

Oh, man, that was such a good way to start the day... Definitely an epic, The Forest can go for as long as they want it to.

Kinda regretting not getting the $100+ together to go see them, 3hrs, I heard they had no keyboard???

Go the retrospective, Dikkii...

Dikkii said...

Well, I'm glad we all agree that it was an epic. I would have hated to have kicked this series off with something that didn't meet requirements.

No keyboard, Kitkat. Hmmm That would mean that it wasn't really The Cure, IMHO.

An important part of their sound, I think, is the cheesy 80s synths. I think it's just as important as Smith's Chorus pedal.