With the release of their darkest album in 1982, the world was expecting something even darker and more depressing from The Cure. Robert even hinted the next album was going to “push people over the cliff.” Imagine everyone’s surprise when the band released Japanese Whispers in 1983. This was nothing like their previous albums. This record actually had songs you could dance to and it wasn’t heavy or dark at all. A lot of people didn’t understand or like the change, while others took a shine to it. Regardless, the singles from this album helped to push The Cure into the mainstream.
The album opens with the catchy “Let’s Go to Bed.” You can tell the band is having fun and not really taking themselves seriously while they are singing “doo doo do do.” This becomes more apparent when you see their dancing in the video. It has this great upbeat bass line that gets you wiggling around and thanks to the synth it’s their most ’80s sounding song (if you can believe that). It’s a mindless, fun song, but what makes it a Cure staple are the mysterious images found: “Let me take your hands I’m shaking like milk.” Though many cried the Cure had gone “pop,” this and many of the songs here still have hints of their dark side.
Though things are still light and fun with “The Dream,” there’s a dark turn with “Just One Kiss.” The music sounds muted, yet is really frantic with pounding drums sounding like feet racing to complete the darkness. This makes it less upbeat than the previous songs. What makes the music even cooler are the different musical elements found such as the synth and the keyboards that overlap one another. To make the track even darker Robert howls out lyrics like “Somebody died for this/Somebody died/For just one kiss.” The darkness comes out even more on “Lament.”
The way the opening music sounds like angels wailing lets the listener know they’re in for something different. The music sounds so somber, but when the lyrics paint a story about a man walking into a river and floating away, things get pretty damn bleak. What makes it even more haunting is how Smith keeps using images of ice cream to describe the body: “Waving with a last vanilla smile” and “One more ice river body.” He takes something good and pure and associates with a tragic event. It’s one of those songs where the stark music pulls you in, as if Smith were a siren lulling you into the water. It’s actually one the most disturbing song on the LP and one of their most underrated.
“The Walk” is probably one of the band’s weirdest songs. It has the most irresistible synth that grabs your attention. The track also seems to have been influenced by oriental music. There’s a riff played on keys that sounds really exotic and similar to the genre. No matter how you look at it, it’s a really catchy song. “The Upstairs Room” is another bright, upbeat track. Though the music is playful, some of the lyrics are bleak. It seems to be about rejection and its affect on a person: “And so I feel the grey
pulse in my head/I turn off the lights and crawl into bed/I try to think of sunshine/But my body goes wet/With the first crash of thunder.” One line that stands out is “Oh the kiss. so alcoholic and slow.” He manages it to sound so sensual, which is kind of weird considering who it’s coming from.
The most popular song on the LP is “The Lovecats.” This track has a jazz/lounge singer vibe with a great rolling bass line that’s impossible to get out of your head. It’s irresistibly catchy with a very playful Robert Smith. The way he coos and hisses is so adorable and shows a new, more open side to the singer. He sounds so content when he sings “So wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully pretty” it’s hard not to join him. It has a mindless chorus that wedges itself in your head. It’s another one of their bizarre tracks, but one that shows the band opening their sound.
Overall this album gets 8.5/10. Of course it’s not their most groundbreaking music, but it is not a bad album. It’s fun, the songs are great, and it does retain some dark elements The Cure is known for. So many of the songs are catchy and kind of mindless, but that doesn’t make them bad. These are the songs that shunned the depressing label the band was getting at the time and still often gets. It’s a nice change of direction for the band and it would help them create some of their best work yet to come. This LP shows there are many sides of The Cure; it’s just another reason to love them.