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Music

Lol Tolhurst's favourite album by The Cure

Lol Tolhurst has enjoyed a stellar career in music. A founding member of goth rock legends The Cure, he started as the band’s drummer before moving on to the keyboards after the release of their swarthy fourth album, 1982’s Pornography. In his tenure, Tolhurst saw the band go from relative obscurity in the early days to becoming one of the UK’s foremost alternative outfits. 

Famously, in late 1989 when the band were recording their eighth studio effort, Disintegration, The Cure‘s frontman Robert Smith asked him to leave due to his ability and reliability being negatively affected by his intake of alcohol and narcotics. Tolhurst is credited with “other instrument” for the track ‘Homesick’, but despite this, over the years, the other band members who were present during the recording said that Tolhurst didn’t even play on the record. 

After departing The Cure, Tolhurst performed in the band Presence, and more recently, concerns himself with the project Levinhurst alongside his wife, Cindy Levinson. In 2011, however, he reunited with his old friends from The Cure for a string of shows performing their earlier material. 

It wouldn’t be right to reduce Tolhurst to just a footnote in The Cure’s history as he arguably performed on all of their most significant works, bar DisintegrationThree Imaginary Boys, Seventeen Seconds, Faith, Pornography, The Top, The Head on the Door and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, are all classics in their own right. 

Tolhurst was with the band when they were post-punk, outwardly goth and when they flirted with psychedelia and pop. This is a testament to his skill. Not only was he able to ballast the group’s ever-changing style with his drumming, but when he moved onto the keyboard, he filled their sound out with an edge that their early output had always been screaming for.

Given that he enjoyed much success with the band, one of the most burning questions that have always been sent in Tolhurst’s direction has been what is his favourite album by the band. It won’t surprise diehard Cure fans that Tolhurst’s favourite record he made was Pornography, the last effort that he played the drums on. Gloomy as hell, with a tense backstory, the album is one of the critical points in the history of the band. 

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The recording sessions took the band to the brink, with drug use and in-fighting plaguing its recording. Smith’s depression imbued his lyrics and the music with a melancholy that they had not yet touched on. It was palpable. Ostensibly, Pornography marked the end of The Cure’s dark period that had started with the 1980s effort Seventeen Seconds. Following its release, bassist Simon Gallup left the band for the first time, and they would now move in a more pop-oriented direction. 

In a 2016 interview with ABC, Tolhurst explained why Pornography is his favourite album by The Cure. He said: “Right. And when I say that I mean the Cure has two main iterations. The three-piece Cure, which was myself, Simon (Gallup) and Robert and the (later) five-piece. That album to me was a distillation of everything we could do as a three-piece. Plus, I really liked the drum sound. I was always trying to get to that drum sound the whole time”.

The interviewer then agreed and said that the album sounds “mammoth”, to which Tolhurst replied: “Yeah, because we took everything out of the room and it was just like this huge wall of reverb. So, it is something that I’m proud of. But I also like the lyrical content. That’s the first time we got in and said what we wanted to say. Before then we’d perhaps been a little obscure.”

One of the most visceral records The Cure ever made, for a three-piece to have reached such artistic heights in 1982 is mind-blowing. Tolhurst’s drumming shines as he delivers chilling robotic beats and loose primal rhythms in equal measure.

Listen to Pornography below.