In selecting the items that appear on this blog, there’s no particular rhyme or reason. Sometimes I’ll choose to focus on genuinely rare and elusive items, other times go into almost forensic detail in displaying the contents of a particular re-issue or special edition – and on occasions like this, choose something that is not especially rare or unique but just has a little something odd from the more common release.
Cassettes are often one of those things that people could care less for. And with good reason – for a good long while they were (in the UK at any rate) very much the poor relation of the format family – often more expensive than the vinyl LP, but coming with only a a bare minimum of packaging – lyrics? inner sleeve? picture label? poster? gatefold? Nahh… just a simple J-card inlay with nary so much as any picture apart from the front. And more often than not hissy in the sound quality department. Little wonder they had their detractors.
This particular Cure cassette is a prime example of the bare minimum of packaging. (Not, I hasten to add, that the original vinyl LP pushed the boat out either, it didn’t even come with an inner lyric sleeve initially.) To be fair though, cassettes did have their moment in the sun for a period in the ’80s with the advent of the Walkman – then fold-out lyrics inserts, chrome quality and extra tracks would regularly be added as enticements.
But what does surprise about this release is the running order. In some simple but bizarre way, the second track from both sides have been swapped over for the cassette in comparison to the vinyl LP. Having lived and breathed with every second of this album on vinyl for a good long while and familiar in an almost intimate way with every note and wail it contains, it was something of a shock at the time to hear this disruption to the flow I’d come to know by heart. The trailing synthesizer fade of ‘A Reflection’ here is followed not by the rapid, minimal drum beat and glassy harmonics guitar intro of ‘A Play For Today’ but instead the shrouded synth intro and reverb-drenched guitar intro of ‘A Forest’.
Similarly, side two’s phantasmic piano breakdown that is ‘The Final Sound’ segues not into the similarly minimal synth intro of ‘A Forest’ but jolts suddenly to the urgent beat of ‘A Play For Today’. Small differences you’d think, but it changes the flow of the album so much. Probably all rather twee to comment on such a thing in this world of downloads and shuffle of the digital era, some might say, where the very concept of an album has become redundant and ‘choice’ reigns supreme. But if an album means something to you, these are the kind of things that are significant. Same goes for those albums released on foreign shores where liberties are taken with the running order, resulting in very different definitions of the album depending on your part of the globe. But that’s another story…