The Cure, ‘Purple Haze’ – Terrible Classic Rock Covers
Tribute albums often sound great in theory, but the problem with most of them is that they’re assembled using performances from bands that happen to be popular at the moment, most of whom happen to be signed to whatever label is curating the tribute, and the results tend to be fairly random.
Such was the case with 1993’s ‘Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix,’ which rounded up such early ’90s superstars as Belly and the Spin Doctors, added some veteran acts like Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy, and even made room for a version of ‘Third Stone from the Sun’ performed by guitar legend Pat Metheny. It’s an album not without its moments, but they’re scattered between covers that never should have been recorded — like the album’s leadoff track, the Cure‘s version of ‘Purple Haze.’
On paper, there’s really nothing wrong with asking the Cure to tackle this Hendrix track; its doomy riff and confused lyrics would seem to land more or less in the goth-influenced alt-rockers’ wheelhouse. It’s the kind of choice that, if executed properly, could have added just enough of a left-field spin to the original to prove that Hendrix’s influence transcends generations as well as genre boundaries. Sadly, the track itself is all wrong.
The Cure’s version of ‘Purple Haze’ emphasizes the ‘haze,’ burying pretty much the entire song in a swirling mush of flanging noise. This in and of itself isn’t enough to wreck the track, but when coupled with the band’s decision to use a repetitious drum sample for the beat, it reduces one of rock’s greatest classics to a boring five-minute drone. There’s no drama here, no dynamic; the song just shifts into low gear and stays there, never breaking the surface of the original.
Happily for the Cure, their misguided ‘Purple Haze’ is just a puzzling footnote to a mostly very successful career, and while the band’s lineup has gone through a bewildering array of changes over the years, they’re still around, touring and recording new music. Maybe one of these days they’ll get their own all-star tribute album, and some randomly chosen younger band can return the favor by recording a cover of one of their classics that completely misses the point.