The Cure's Punk Roots

The Cure's Punk Roots

Punk Rock + Existentialism= "Killing an Arab"

Before anybody called the Cure a goth band, they were usually referred to as a post-punk band. Of course, to be “post” anything you have to have some sort of connection to the thing itself. You can hear this connection pretty clearly on some of the Cure's earlier tracks, such as “Killing an Arab.”

 

In everything except the subject matter, it's essentially a punk song, although it is arguably on the artsy side of English punk, like the first few tracks by Warsaw. (Since Warsaw later became the Joy Division, the similarity is not surprising.)

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Post-punk has been described as an inward-looking and artistically experimental variation on punk rock. You don't get much more inward-looking than French existentialism, or much more experimental than basing a punk song on “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, as the Cure have done here. It's hard to imagine the typical punk band being quite that intellectual, despite the fact that many famous punk rockers (Johnny Rotten and Chuck Dukowski among others) are extremely intelligent.

So, even though the punk rock roots of the Cure are clear in this song, you can already see them branching away from that, getting ready to take off in new directions. The song was controversial when it first came out, because people who weren't familiar with the Camus novel mistakenly thought it might be a racist rallying cry of some kind. The same thing happened with the Joy Division, although they actually were flirting with right-wing imagery in order to appear threatening, and the Cure were not. Camus himself, ironically, was a leftist!