The Cure was kind of a great "stoner" band. No, it didn't have the guitar-noodling tropes of the '70s bong-rattling rock, nor a '90s grunge baked guitar fuzz and apathy. Robert Smith and the rest of the Cure focused more on Big Emotions: misanthropy, death, loneliness. His weren't just loves, they were yearnings, expressed with a wail and a little wink. And if The Cure's music was for the lonely people, so is weed, in many ways.
While drinking mostly makes loneliness deeper and sadder, weed numbs it. Given the right physical space and strain, cannabis can soothe those creeping feelings of isolation and doubt into solitude and reflection. The anxiety of what made you alone in the first place is replaced with an appreciation for this moment—a bit of time to just reflect on all this shit for a bit. The Cure works for that feeling too: Reflective highs are made widescreen on the synths that open 'Plainsong' from their formative 1984 album, "Disintegration." The kind where your brain suddenly proffers a slideshow of memories, combined with some revelation about your past and present. Sure, it'll probably make way less sense when you come down but who cares?
The members of Baltimore's Wildhoney seem know all of this about The Cure and weed. The Baltimore band pays homage to Robert Smith's band on their Record Store Day exclusive, "Bongs Don't Cry," a weed-themed parody cover of the Cure's 1980 album "Boys Don't Cry," featuring solo tracks from each member of the band.
This is Wildhoney's fourth weed-themed parody. The first one was in 2014 at the recommendation of Tony Pence of Hampden record store, Celebrated Summer.
"The conception came from Tony of Celebrated Summer wanting to do an alternative cover for our first seven-inch, which was a play on Brian Eno's 'Another Green World,'" Wildhoney guitarist Joe Trainor says. "We titled [it] 'Another Weed World' [and] each year since we have taken a seminal LP we love and did a weed themed play on the title."
"Another Weed World" housed Wildhoney's self-titled seven-inch. In 2015, they did "Eat Something, Drop Something, Smoke Something," a riff on Discharge's "Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing" that contained the "Sleep Through It" album; and last year, "I Can Hear Our Bongs Ripping As One," a parody of Yo La Tengo's "I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One" that contained the "Your Face Sideways" EP.
The only place to get a copy of the "Bongs Don't Cry" cassette, put out by DZ Tapes, is at Celebrated Summer (3616 Falls Road) on Record Store Day (April 22) and there are only 35 of them.
Fitting for an album with "bong" in the title, this tape is more of a casual experimentation than an official Wildhoney release: "We came up with the idea of each member recording a solo track. Each person recorded theirs differently. All the songs are little peeks into each one of our minds," Trainor says.
The five tracks, one for each bandmember—Joe Trainor, Alan Everhart, Nathan O'Dell, Lauren Shusterich, and Zach Inscho—show Wildhoney's musical range: Trainor's 'FSA III' is contemplative, with a melody lifted straight from N64 load screens; Everhart's 'Wednesday' is all soft backing vocals and keyboard plinks off-set by some guitar overdrive and plenty of melancholy ("And I always thought of you/ As a friend/ This is the day the good times end," he sings); O'Dells' 'Sorcery' is a spacey load of organs; Inscho brings a barnstorming cover of Romantic States' 'Take My Hand and Run'; and Shusterich performs jazz standard 'Lush Life.'
Over a lounge piano and an old-timey echo, Shusterich's voice is given new space to work and convey feeling to the words: "I used to visit all very gay places." The cover's effect is as aching as it is glitzy. The tape's B-side features a remix of 'Tea Leaves' off "Sleep Through It" from producer Drew Scott of Blacksage. Scott takes the song down muddier, darker avenues, before breaking into a fingersnapped coda—kind of like a layer borrowed from a London On Da Track production.
"Bongs Don't Cry" is a fun, one-off experimentation by Wildhoney's members, and doesn't need to be taken as anything more than that. However, the wide range of styles here fit a band that, despite a dedication to shoegaze, are masters of pure pop melodies. The record's plaintive qualities belie those toking origins. These emotions are a bit more subtle than Robert Smith's and even more weed-friendly.