A REAL exploding boy. No wonder it's such a feel-good song.
THE CURE, "THE EXPLODING BOY" (1985 B-SIDE)
I wasn’t a nice person when I was a kid. I’ll be honest. I went to TWO Cure concerts back in the late 80’s and early 90’s (the Disintegration tour and the Wish tour) not so much because I loved the band, but moreso to make fun of all the freaky Living Dead Dolls who got dressed up in their black eyeliner Subbacultcha finest to be in the presence of the mummified corpse of their hero, Robert Smith (who, by that time, looked like he’d been feeding off several of his morguemates for a half dozen years). They put on a good show, sleepwalking through endless Kraftwerk trances like “Pictures of You” and “A Forest,” and Robert didn’t move much so he didn’t break a sweat. I think I wore a bright yellow shirt that day just to be different.
It wasn’t always that way with the Cure. For a period of about five years, somewhere between the bottomless suicide pit of “Pornography” and the creeping malaise of “Disintegration,” Robert Smith was downright happy. He wore fuzzy bear suits, glow in the dark paint, and sang practically giddy songs about cats, caterpillars and even going to bed with another HUMAN BEING! Our little Hot Topic boy was growing up, and even starting to mingle. Could a roller skating party be that far off?
Somewhere during Robert’s happy period, there also came an abundance of songwriting, where suddenly Cure singles came equipped with not one but two or even THREE B-sides, and they were even starting to put some thought into ‘em. “The Exploding Boy” comes from 1985’s “Inbetween Days” single, and you can tell – the similarity’s obvious. Both have the same strumming Spanish guitar rhythm, both have short, choppy verses with repeating lines, and both deal with leaving someone. (compare “Knew if I turned, I’d turn away from you, and I couldn’t look back” with “Go on, go on, just walk away”). Yet as good as “Inbetween Days” is (and for years it was my favorite Cure song – how imaginative, right?), “The Exploding Boy” is even BETTER – and that’s because of that warped, distorted, fucked up drunken saxophone that weaves in and out of the song like a psychedelic hornets nest. You can tell Robert’s happy – he even gets off a few grunts after each chorus – which, for him, is the equivalent of Howard Dean’s infamous campaign-ending shriek. “The Exploding Boy” is pretty much “Inbetween Days” on acid, which is always an improvement where music’s concerned (how do you think we got through Doors albums?), and not only is it the Cure’s BEST B-side, it damn well might be their best fucking SONG ever, and hardly anyone but the most die-hard Cure fans and Hot Topic Club members have even HEARD the damn thing. I don’t think they’ve ever played it live – nor do I think they even COULD – and it would’ve certainly livened up the proceedings on “Head on the Door” (“A nightmare of you, of death in the pool” – how’s about swapping THAT one for starters?). Here, for three minutes, the Cure put aside their “black is how I feel on the inside” persona and just sing for the sheer fucking joy of it. For three minutes, “The Exploding Boy” is the closest the Cure gets to unbridled, mind-altering bliss. Why, I betcha Robert was so happy during the recording session, he changed into a dark brown shirt.
SQUID POP METER SEZ: A perfect 10 out of 10
BEST SERVED WITH: That's easy. Pop Rocks and Coke. Bingo!