This deluxe edition is less pickle cake, more delectable treat.
Upon its initial release in 1990, Mixed Up represented one of the more curious entries in the Cure’s already-diverse discography. Coming off the shimmering melancholy of Disintegration (1989), Mixed Up was a bit of a low-risk shake-off for Robert Smith and the band, reinvention through recreation. Standards such as “In Between Days,” “The Walk” and “Fascination Street” were deconstructed and stretched out into 12” kinda-sorta dance remixes. This incorporation of house/electronica into other genres was a hallmark of the time— friend and ally Siouxsie Sioux would do similar on her 1991 hit “Kiss Them for Me”—but the very idea of remixing seemed contrary to type for a band known for crafting evocative mood portraitures. To wit, Entertainment Weekly described the effort as “frost[ing] perfectly good chocolate cake with pickle relish.” Twenty-eight years later, the Cure has re-released Mixed Up along with two other discs of remixed material. As they celebrate their 40th anniversary, perhaps time has ripened the audience for another round of recontextualization. This deluxe edition is less pickle cake, more delectable treat.
Disc One is a 2018 remaster of the original Mixed Up tracklist, comprised of 10 of the Cure’s most popular songs as well as a then-new standalone single. “Never Enough” is Cure-style arena rock, its muscular guitars distorting into feedback and Smith’s strobing disaffection harnessing that roiling grunge cynicism. The album’s remixes generally unspool and isolate melodic lines that had become so beloved and familiar over the years: the brass flourishes in “Close to Me” are brisker and especially dizzy; “Fascination Street” is given a futuristic treatment as the lead guitar slashes through SOS calls of siren-like bleeps. The technology available for this remaster multiplies the resonance of Smith’s vocal theater. The double-tracked, cotton-mouth delivery of “Don’t struggle like that/ Or I will only love you more” makes “Lullaby” exponentially creepier. As antidote, the pristine clarity of Smith’s low register vocals in “Pictures of You” will raise goosebumps in even the most frustrated romantic.
Remixes 1982–1990: Mixed Up Extras 2018 collects “rare” remixes from the band’s history. Alternate versions of “Close to Me (Extended Mix 1985)” (here, a hazy cloud of echoed brass) and “Pictures of You (Extended Version 1990)” (here, absent the dub undertones) appear on this disc, as well as two versions of “Let’s Go to Bed” (“Extended Mix 1982” with backtracks and drop-outs, “Milk Mix 1990” with a Prodigy-lite skittering beat). The runtime of “Boys Don’t Cry (New Voice Club Mix 1986)” is nearly double that of its original version, playing around with its pop-perfect riffage and mixing in a snare drum temper tantrum as a stormy interstitial. Fan favorite “The Lovecats” does not fare as well, and we realize now why it was dropped from the original Mixed Up lineup. “The Lovecats (TC & Benny Mix 1990)” features puffy chugs of what sounds like a child’s train whistle on the upbeat against a slicker, digitized full-band delivery. For a stand-by so stylistically unique, this concept takes the all the show out of the showtune. The playlist benefits from the inclusion of some moodier, broodier tracks (“A Japanese Dream,” “Primary”), and hints toward the kind of selections Smith would make in his next project.
Smith meets the band’s 40th anniversary with pride alongside a requisite reserve of anxiety. “I knew a few people wanted to— what’s a nice way of saying ‘exploit’?— celebrate the 40th anniversary with projects,” he interviewed, and so Smith decided to spearhead some projects before the projects spearheaded him. Thus far, he has assumed the role of curator, leading the Meltdown festival in London and releasing the third part of this deluxe edition set, Torn Down: Mixed Up Extras 2018. The tracklist reads like an autobiography of the band, Smith selecting one song from each Cure album and sequencing them in chronological order. But unlike the first two collections, where songs are extended and either maximalized or minimized, Torn Down profoundly reimagines its source material.
The original “Three Imaginary Boys” was a lonely dream: this “Help Me” remix is a cry from the matrix. Everything is stripped away in the first verse, Smith accompanied only by drippy electronic burbles. The processing isn’t always so cold. Disintegrations’s “Plainsong (Edge of the World Mix)” sounds like it could’ve been a collaboration with Washed Out’s Ernest Greene: the glorious instrumental crescendos of the original are replaced with halcyon swells, and it becomes hard to decide if a glittering burst or a translucent glow is more beautiful. “Like Cockatoos (Lonely in the Rain Mix)” succeeds where “The Lovecats” remix did not: the interference of synth zaps and drum machines plays off of the Moroccan-tinged instrumental mysticism with bizarre concordance. The transformations on Torn Down are fairly radical, and only substantiate Smith’s legacy as a master of atmospherics.
The Mixed Up deluxe edition precedes a re-release of 1992 classic Wish and, if rumors are true, a new album currently in the works. More than just an encore of an encore, Torn Down proves that Smith is by all rights capable and relevant. Fans around the globe and across generations need no such reassurance. Their message to him only repeats his own wild words: “Everything you do is simply dreamy!/ Everything you do is quite delicious!”