April 1984: The Cure Get Psychedelic with THE TOP

Friday, April 30, 2021

It's safe to say that Robert Smith was feeling particularly inspired in 1983-84. He spent most of '83 as member of Siouxsie of the Banshees, playing guitar for the band. He helped write and record the Banshees' Hyaena album, simultaneously putting in work on what would become the Cure's fifth studio album, The Top. As if that wasn't enough, Smith and Banshees bassist, Steve Severin, wrote and recorded the one-off album, Blue Sunshine, as The Glove.

"The Top was the closest I've ever come to making a solo album," Smith told Rolling Stone in 2004. "I didn't really have a very coherent idea of what the album was, and I think it shows. It's probably the patchiest Cure album. I played all the instruments, except drums."

The Top finds Smith digging even deeper into the dark moods that marked the Cure's first four albums, while simultaneously indulging the fun and more lighthearted dance-pop excursions of 1983 singles and more compilation, Japanese Whispers. Opening with the epic dirge "Shake Dog Shake," the album ranges from frantic ("Give Me It") to happy-faced lo-fi goth-pop (the LP's lone single, "The Caterpillar"). The schizophrenic vibes create a rollicking roller-coaster effect across the record's ten tracks.

"When I listen back to the album, I have a strange image of me sitting in the middle of the studio floor surrounded by little bongos and spoons and things," Smith explained. "I would just sit there and make things up with an acoustic guitar. [Producer] Dave Allen and I would play, and I edited it down a couple weeks later. I don’t think any of the songs were actually played as songs; they were kind of created later. It was a bit sad, because it was very badly reviewed and it dented my confidence in that way of working, and I put a stop to it."

Released on April 30, 1984, The Top still managed to reach the band's growing legion of fans in America, cracking the Billboard 200 to peak at #181 for the week of March 10, 1984. The #1 album in the country at the time: Michael Jackson's Thriller.