Welcome to the revamped Throwback Throwdown feature where we will have staff members attempting to settle alt-music debates. We also will give the readers the opportunity to vote on who wins! In the Purple Corner, we have Michael La Torre Co-Founder/Editor, who will be arguing that the 1989 original version of "Love Song" by The Cure is the best version of the track. In the Gray Corner we have Nicholas La Torre, Contributor who will be arguing that 311's 2004 cover of the song is superior. Each participant will first highlight the strengths of their respective argument, next they will tear down the opposing side. It's time to take the gloves off and do the damn thing!
Arguments for The Cure (Michael) -
The Cure - Right out the gate this track has you with the rhythm which is quickly joined by the lead guitar riff. Then Robert Smith’s vocals drop in and there is something so complete about the track and the instrumental between the verses is such a good change of pace structurally. It helps the build towards the hook that comes later. This song is a faster song, but it’s also slow in a way. At first glance, many people think that this song is just a straight love song. However, with The Cure, nothing is ever as it seems as one could also interpret the relationship described in the lyrics as one of obsession, moving into stalker territory. Smith leaves it ambiguous because he always leave fans wanting more. The chorus on this song is timeless and one of the most recognizable pieces of alt music. The album that this song is from Disintegration helped catapult The Cure beyond success on the indie scene into bona fide superstardom and they never looked back. The Cure is among the groups that brought alt music into the big leagues of musical genres, where it has stayed since. A bit of The Cure’s legacy can be seen in almost any band that utilizes synth work in their music today. It could easily be argued that The Cure is among the 5 most influential alt bands of all time and songs like “Love Song” are a big part that. While some people may claim that the song has a dated sound, I would ask if it has a dated sound, then why do bands continually try in vain to imitate The Cure? After all these years The Cure are still going, and regularly play 3 hour concerts that sound incredible.
Arguments for 311 (Nicholas) -
While this should hopefully be an interesting read, I imagine the role of villain in this story will probably be given to me. Hyper Alt/Indie fans love the band that wrote this track and for me to come out and say a cover by a very talented group of seasoned, but popular, musicians outshines anything the original band was trying to do, is borderline sacrilege. Regardless, I’ll just come out and say the 311 version of Love Song features the same powerful bassline while adding much more melodic vocals and modern sound while not turning it into a snooze fest. The guitars not only sound way better, they are played way better….the solo sounds as though it was meant to be played on a guitar rather than a keyboard...and the band works so well together when 311 plays it, you’d never guess they didn’t write it had you not known any better. There is also a bit of reggae element added to the song that gives it some feel of an original 311 tune. I believe that most people who hear this version first will prefer it over the original. I would love to get some research to back that up. Arguments against 311 (Michael) -
I am by no means a 311 hater, but I feel like The Cure is in a different class and never is it more apparent than this song comparison. The reggae infused guitar melody that runs throughout the cover is at best a distraction from the leads and at worst feel like they were mixed in from a different song. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that 311’s guitars in this song are better played, louder maybe, certainly more prominently featured. That’s because there’s not a whole hell of a lot else going on in the song outside of Nick Hexum’s “singing” (i.e. droning? I guess?), the aforementioned “WOCK WOCK WOCK” of the other guitar, and a drum beat that by comparison makes Ringo Starr sound like Neil Peart. I also find it very interesting that this is even a debate, given that this cover is 311’s third most played track on Spotify (i.e. a song they didn’t write and certainly didn’t do justice). Robert Smith may sound like he didn’t want to be there (or anywhere in particular), but that’s his affect and another reason why we love him. He’s a champion for the outsiders. Arguments against The Cure - (Nicholas) - I will admit that I have a lot of respect for The Cure, while also having nearly no sense of loyalty or fandom toward them whatsoever. Love Song, in my opinion, is another instance of a great song being written and performed by a group who never really seemed to be a fan of it. This could have something to do with it sounding so much different from anything else on Disintegration. In general, this track is a departure from typical work by The Cure. This is Robert Smith’s boldest attempt at an actual love song. As a music fan, I will always stand behind who did it first, but in all honesty, this is one of the few covers that I will say far surpasses the original. For The Cure, the drums during Love Song sound like someone turned over a bucket and started beating it with a wooden spoon. The keyboard sounds like something coming from a carnival funhouse (Dee da leet dee deet dee dah dee dee deet dah dee dee… Dee da leet dee deet dee dah dee dee deet dah dee dee), and Smith sounds like he would rather be anywhere else. I find it a bit funny that this song thrusted them into alternative greatness when they act like they never wanted to be there in the first place, especially during this track. In fact, I’m not sure the exact reason this song is covered so often. I would like to think it’s because 311 did such a great job covering it that others wanted involved. It was probably most likely due to admiration for the song by others with the desire to actually give it the justice it deserves.
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Still undecided? Take a listen for yourself!
Thank you for reading and as always, keep it tuned to Alt Revue for all things alt music!