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The Cure
Join the Dots: B-sides & Rarities, '78-'01
Rhino Records

If and when The Cure finally hang up their high-tops, some will remember them solely for the Goth, the poorly applied lipstick and the Phyllis Diller hairdos. They miss the point by half.

Like the new breed of bands do when name-checking their sound -- The Rapture's Luke Jenner does an uncanny Robert Smith; Canada's The Stills the danceable noir thing -- it's best to focus for inspiration on the first half of The Cure's career. The same can be said for this four-disc, 70-song box.

The first CD of Join the Dots concentrates on The Cure's early, nervous and angular sound. From the opening cut, "10:15 Saturday Night" (b-side to the infamous "Killing An Arab" single), Disc 1 reveals a band that hit the ground running with their nearly yearly releases, from Three Imaginary Boys through 1984's The Top. Best among these rarities are "Just One Kiss" (a slice of vintage 80s Euro-wave and b-side to "Let's Go to Bed"), "The Upstairs Room" (extra b-side to "The Walk") and "The Exploding Boy" (from "In Between Days").

Disc 2 covers the band's heyday, 1987-1992, when their shows and records (including career pinnacles Head on the Door and Disintegration) were a schizophrenic mix of dark dirges, bubbly pop hits and all manner of excess. B-sides "Breathe" (from the "Catch" 12-inch), "Snow In Summer" (back side of "Just Like Heaven") and "Babble" ("Lullaby/Fascination Street" single) highlight the strongest of the four discs.

There's not much to recommend the final two discs. Wish, from '92, was The Cure running in place, and it would be four years each between the last two desultory studio affairs (and now four years since the last). Uneven re-mixes, soundtrack throwaways and tribute covers litter the landscape of the final 30 cuts, a meager handful of these particular dots worth joining. Still, it's a testament to the band's longevity -- and the strength of the first half of their career -- that they remain influential enough to land a headlining spot at this year's Coachella festival.

Of course it's Sunday night, and the herd will no doubt have thinned -- much like The Cure's career.

Tracks to burn: "10:15 Saturday Night," "Babble"
Grade: C+ --John Schacht

Epitaph Records

Brett Gurewitz, punk rock mogul, founder of Bad Religion and Epitaph Records, leads this motley crew of noise-makers down a twisted electronica-hardcore-industrial alley. Adding to the madness are Atticus Ross (Nine Inch Nails, 12 Rounds), his kid brother Leopold and Greg Puciato (the throat lacerating screamer from Dillinger Escape Plan). This 5-track EP is a taste of what the band is scraping up in the studio for the upcoming full-length. There are grinding guitars, tons of programming and one angry mofo screeching above the din. All elements line up next to each other and then pile on as if in a knotted Rugby scrum. Gurewitz' lyrical day job in Bad Religion is filled with socio-political commentary, whereas his lyrics in Error are as subtle as "I believe in homicide." There is a method to this madness, the songs danceable at some junctures, pogoable at others, and just brutal most other times. Fans of Bad Religion will scratch their heads, but most will eventually hop on board. The EP is not easy in the listening department, but with tracks like "Nothing's Working, " "Burn in Hell," and "Brains Out," that may be just the point.

Track to burn: "Nothing's Working"
Grade: B- --Samir Shukla

All Night Radio
Spirit Stereo Frequency
Sub Pop

You might know Dave Scher and Jimi Hey from Bee Venom, or maybe Scher's work in hot-shit psychedelic country-rockers Beachwood Sparks. Perhaps you know them from stints in The Lily's. Maybe Strictly Ballroom, then, or Tristeza, The Rapture, or Glass Candy and The Shattered Theater (the last, of course, featuring indie peach nonpareil, Ida No).

Any of those musical dalliances ring a bell? No? Not to worry. Scher and Hey do. They also break out the tamboura, saxophones, fuzz bass, "ringside announcers," "robot vocals," sound effects, glockenspiel, and the odd guitar, all in the California tradition of attempting to catch the perfect (sound) wave.

Suggested serving: In the back of a Ford Econoline, sunset motif painted around the rear "porthole" window. Broken Beatles and James Gang 8-tracks spilling tape on the sandy shag carpeting. Dropping a couple hits of blotter, thinking about surfing, hot dog stands, banana seats, ABA basketball, some greenies. Your brother's old Pink Floyd records, your buddy's new Argent.

Which is a way of saying: The best of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, commercial free, for your listening enjoyment. (But on acid.)

Track to burn: "We're On Our Wave"
Grade: B+--Timothy C. Davis

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