Japanese Whispers is a compilation album, consisting of a number of singles and their respective b-sides that The Cure released between 1982 and 1983.
At this time The Cure had been reduced to a duo, Simon Gallup having left the band after the tour of their previous album, Pornography. Robert Smith's friendship had disintegrated with Gallup, a fist fight ensued and Smith decided to cut all ties with him. Thankfully this wasn't a long term decision, and by the time of 1985's The Head On the Door, he was back in the band, playing brooding bass lines once more.
Another change to the line up was Smith's decision to have Lol Tolhurst exchange the drums for the keyboard. This was certainly the most significant change in The Cure's line up in a long time and it would be a position he would hold until his removal from the band in 1989.
The singles featured here, which are pop music through and through, make a stark comparison next to the gothic trilogy of albums that the band had recorded between 1980 and 1982. Keeping this in mind, it is surprising to discover that the accompanying B-sides are as dark as anything the band had recorded before, albeit more melodic.
Let's Go to Bed was the first single to be released and its simplicity is both redeeming and detracting in equal measure. It had previously been a guitar driven song that had had its inception while Smith was writing demo's for Pornography. The melody hangs upon Smith's attempts to bridge each verse with "do-do-do-do", and it's a good stab at making a pop single. The problem is that today in 2009, it now sounds entirely like a product of poorly produced 1980's music. The Cure made some of the best music of the 1980's, sadly, this isn't it.
Despite this, the song's b-side, Just One Kiss, is splendid. After a couple of listens it isn't too hard to see why Smith himself had wished it had got a single release. Stylistically it shares a likeness with the kind of ethereal ballad that the band had perfected on 1981's Faith. The chugging bass line propels the song with a forward momentum that is retained until the end of its running time.
I do not think it an inaccuracy when I say that in most cases the b-side is stronger than the actual single it was paired off with, the exception being The Lovecats. Lament, a bass driven dirge, only proves this, as it too would have made a fine single in its own right. Keyboard blasts are intermittently spliced with a chilling guitar, and to top it all off, Smith also gets a chance to display his banshee's wail upon the opening lyric, "Today there was a tragedy underneath the bridge...". Is it one of their best early compositions? Why certainly!
The last song on the album, The Lovecats, is positively the best song here. It had been the band's first single to reach the top 10 in the UK chart, peaking at number 7. The bass work is excellent; the suspended notes mimicking the way a cat walks to a tee. It would appear that Smith was becoming ever fonder of wordless syllables acting as a bridge and sure enough, his "ba-ba-ba-ba" once again connects the verses faultlessly.
I know my praise for this set of songs has been great, yet I wouldn't recommend Japanese Whispers as one of your first purchases of The Cure, as out of the band's entire back catalogue, it is the one which now sounds the most dated. Thankfully, the strength of the song writing still shines through and for those of you who have a love of The Cure, there is plenty to enjoy here.
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'Japanese Whispers' was a practical way of collecting material from the three singles 'Let's Go to Bed,' 'The Walk' and 'The Lovecats' released by the Cure between 1982 and 1983, back when singles tended to be kept separate from full-length album releases. Not considered a 'proper' album by the band and others, it still stands strong against the competition, mainly failing due to its disappointing length of just under half an hour.
As these are singles intended to reach a wider audience, Robert Smith's typical gloominess and introspection is largely absent here, replaced with overt catchiness that's perhaps more enjoyable, certainly in the case of the irresistible 'The Lovecats' which has the power to make me happier than almost any other song ever recorded. Other songs are a little more subtle, such as the soaring 'Just One Kiss,' the typically gothic 'The Upstairs Room' and the slightly deranged 'Speak My Language,' but this album is to some extent worthless. Those looking for the consistency of a studio album will be disappointed, and those interested in the more superficial sound of the singles should be directed towards one of the singles compilations.
1. Let's Go to Bed
2. The Dream
3. Just One Kiss
4. The Upstairs Room
5. The Walk
6. Speak My Language
8. The Lovecats
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Let's Go To Bed
2 The Dream
3 Just One Kiss
4 The Upstairs Room
5 The Walk
6 Speak My Language
7 La Ment
8 The Lovecats