various artists

Just Like Heaven: A Tribute to the Cure

On the Internet, where memes are treated as currency, the Cure’s dolor is an inside joke that everyone’s in on. Cartoonish gothic Photoshops, YouTube clips from the sketch comedy show “The Mary Whitehouse Experience,” online “Which Song by the Cure Are You?” quizzes—turning the Cure’s statements of pain and suffering into e-mail attachment-worthy parody is an easy game. For more than two decades now, Robert Smith and crew have been categorized as despair’s house band: artful experts in expressing raw, subterranean emotion in a way that was both cathartic and perverse. But as one tribute album is reminding listeners, criticism for being too maudlin and lacerating was often unfounded. American Laundromat Records’ Just Like Heaven: A Tribute to the Cure allows the listener to separate the anguish from the art. Handled by outsiders, the music reveals a regrettably glossed-over knack for songcraft: Hear the fragile melodies in “Picture of You” (covered by Elizabeth Harper & the Matinee), the emotional vibrancy of “Close to You” (Elk City), and the slightly frenetic “Just Like Heaven” (Joy Zipper). The Cure could pen a terrific lament, but more important, the Cure could pen a terrific pop song.