In keeping with a recent Facebook meme, these are 10 albums, listed by artist in alphabetical order, that had a huge impact on me, changed the way I experienced music, expanded my horizons, and maybe even saved me. They’re not necessarily the best albums or even my favorite albums by the respective artists, though there’s some overlap. But without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I discovered The Cure’s Wish at the absolute perfect time: high school. I was your typical angst-ridden teenage boy who was prone to moping around, pining away after girls, and writing awful poetry in his basement bedroom about said moping and pining. Oh, and there was also a fair amount of spiritual struggle as I was trying — perhaps for the first time — to figure out what I actually believed about God, Jesus, and the Church.
Into this tumultuous time came Robert Smith with his tangled hair, ghoulish makeup, and lyrics that practically dripped with wondrous melancholy and delicious despair. And I fell for it… big time. How could I possibly resist lyrics like “The way the rain comes down hard/That’s how I feel inside” (“Open”) or “I thought you were the girl I always dreamed about/But I let the dream go and the promises broke/The make believe ran out” (“A Letter to Elise”)?
Musically, Wish found The Cure building on the densely layered sound that they’d realized to perfection on Disintegration (their finest album, of course) with added influence from shoegazers like My Bloody Valentine. And I would be remiss not to mention the Wish b-sides, like “The Big Hand” and “This Twilight Garden,” which are just as strong as the album tracks (and in the case of the latter, is one of my favorite Cure tracks, period).
Put simply, no album feels more like high school to me, for better or worse, than Wish.
All self-deprecated joking about teen angst aside, Wish does hold additional significance for me. My friend Leah gave me a copy for my 16th birthday. Actually, she dubbed it onto cassette with handwritten liner notes, back when that was a thing. Leah was a cool artsy alternative girl before that became a cliché. She was stylish, independent and unafraid to speak her mind, a good photographer, and into cool stuff like Neil Gaiman comics, and I won’t deny that I had something of a crush on her at the time.
Sadly, Leah was in a car accident the December of our senior year, and died shortly after. It was right around her 18th birthday. That was the first time I’d ever experienced something tragic like that, and her death haunted me for months afterward. I still sometimes think about Leah when I listen to Wish, and what her life might’ve been like if it hadn’t been for those frozen Omaha streets.
On a related note, Robert Smith recently announced that he’s finished remastering Wish for a deluxe reissue similar to the ones that previous Cure albums have received. Hopefully, the Wish reissue (whenever it’s released) will include the Lost Wishes instrumental EP among its bonus material.