Local bands will play Cure and Smiths covers on Thursday, June 28, at the Sunset Tavern. Lovatto

The Sunset is holding a cover night dedicated to settling one of rock music's eternal rivalries: The Smiths versus the Cure. The night's lineup features members of the bands Season of Strangers, Temple Canyon, Seaside Tryst, Furniture Girls, Hannah Racecar, and more.

First of all, the answer is the Smiths, obviously. Though as with the Beatles versus the Stones, Blur versus Oasis, Sabbath versus Zeppelin, and other such contests, it's not a binary. Loving one in no way precludes loving the other.

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Still, it is true that a strong preference for one or the other tends to tell you something about a person. It's impossible to say what exactly, but when someone tells you they love the Cure, it's always like, "Right, of course you do."

Likewise with Smiths fans, who are now engaged in a constant struggle to retroactively protect their intense connection to the unequaled wit and sensitivity of Morrissey's lyrics against the reactionary media brute their author has become.

It's a bit like astrology: total bullshit, except for how uncannily accurate it tends to be.

So what is this show doing here during Pride month?

Neither group bears much obvious relation to the stereotypical sound of today's queer music culture (though Smiths songs and iconography were often flagrant, if coy, declarations of gay desire). The queer association makes more sense in the context of the 1980s, when coming out was a much more dangerous proposition, and when the reflected outsiderness both bands embodied was a magnet and a shelter for queer and straights alike, forging a valuable common ground for differently marginalized subcultures.

As Anwen Crawford wrote about the Cure in the New Yorker, "The devotion they attract has made them easy to dismiss as the quintessential band of adolescent woe, Pied Pipers for the world's ever-replenishing supply of tearful suburban teenagers."



The adolescent woe and tearfulness may be universal experiences, but they were also coded signifiers for people who were forced to live secret lives.

This sentiment was made more explicit by the writer Patrik Sandberg in Vice: "As a gay, goth adolescent in the American suburbs," he wrote, "furious, skeptical, paranoid, isolated—I was drawn to Robert Smith's unfathomable majesty. He was almost like an imaginary friend."

You need only watch 10 seconds of Morrissey prancing around the stage of Top of the Pops with gladioli springing from the back pocket of his jeans in 1983 to imagine how un-imaginary his friendship looked.

The fact that Robert Smith and Morrissey have publicly hated each other for 35 years adds an interesting wrinkle to the rivalry. But regardless of one's preference, the real test will be seeing how Seattle bands grapple with the deceptive complexity of the songs.

They may not change any minds, but if they can come to grips with the layers of Johnny Marr's guitar wizardry, or replicate the dense textures of Robert Smith's pedal board, and rescue the music from the arid hell of karaoke arrangements, everyone will be a winner.