Wisely, the Cure decided to start fresh upon signing with their new label in 2004 by cleaning house, remastering the old albums, and bringing their fans Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities, 1978-2001. Not only is it the ultimate companion to the official releases, but it is, in a way, the new-super-deluxe-updated version of that cassette release of Staring at the Sea. Every B-side is included, in order, with cleaned-up sound, liner notes, and explanations by the man who made it all happen. All tracks, from "10.15 Saturday Night" (the B-side to the debut single "Killing an Arab") to covers of "Hello, I Love You," "Purple Haze," and "World in My Eyes," to entries from the Bloodflowers singles, are an indication that while the Cure made both strong albums and singles, they were not afraid to experiment along the way, and more importantly, they didn't let pride keep them from not making them available to those who were willing to look for them. Their growth as a band can be fully tracked in the songs here. The wild development on disc one (which includes the B-sides from the Staring at the Sea cassette, the B-sides from the Boys Don't Cry re-release from 1986, and the Japanese Whispers B-sides, as well as the extremely rare "Lament" [flexi-disc version]) is easily their strongest and most diverse era, with Smith growing artistically and musically in leaps and bounds from track to track. The rampant growth eventually gives way to the dark and heavy pop of the B-sides of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Disintegration, and Mixed Up on disc two. While the songs are strong on this second disc, they manage to have less of the wild, experimental abandon that disc one has. The Cure began to find a real niche by this point, and by disc three, the dream pop of the late '80s had developed into the stadium-sized gloom and doom that characterized 1992's Wish, their critical and commercial peak. Eventually the band's output would become more sporadic, and the level of consistency would be more of a trademark of the band than the experimentalism of old. Disc four, which covers the time from Wild Mood Swings to Bloodflowers, is the "weakest" of the collection, but there are still great moments to be found, with many remixes that give the original tracks a new interpretation. There are those who would argue that the band grew, and others would argue that it fell apart, yet there is no denying that the majority of work on Join the Dots is extraordinarily strong. It admittedly may be a bit too much for someone who isn't quite a big devotee of the band, but it's a veritable godsend for those who've been waiting for this for years. No jumbled, out-of-order track listings, no glaring omissions (it's safe to say that the reissues of the albums will take care of any extra tracks, mixes, and miscellanea lying around) -- it's exactly what a rarities/B-sides collection should be. Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities, 1978-2001 is proof that, while the band may falter from time to time -- as most do -- the Cure have, unlike most, really been paying attention to their fans' needs over the years.
© Chris True /TiVo