Even at my mid-20s gloomiest, I never fully bought into Robert Smith’s persona. And while I could tell that he was a pretty great — and eclectic as hell — maker of radio-friendly pop songs, I never really got past enjoying them on the radio.
So I was neither surprised, offended or cheered when The Cure became gigantic international superstars on the back of Smith’s outsized goth persona and right-sized songwriting acumen. Even in the 80s, the audience was already fragmenting, I could respect the hell out of what he did without ever fully loving it except for a song here and a song there.
One of those songs was “Push” from 1985’s The Head on The Door, the album that served as their U.S. breakthrough of sorts (it made it all the way to 59 on the Billboard charts). The gigantic guitar riff that opened “Push” appealed to the guy inside of me who loved U2, but I also loved the audacity of the entire arrangement, which is a cousin to what The Replacements did on “Seen Your Video.”
Instead of establishing the riff, singing the words, and having an instrumental outro, “Push” completely reverses the paradigm. The instrumental outro is an instrumental intro, galloping through wordless verse after wordless verse for so long you just figure it’s an instrumental.
That way, when Robert Smith finally starts singing after two thrilling minutes, it’s almost a bonus.
It’s a neat trick, the long instrumental opening, and goes back to at least “Cowgirl in The Sand,” but it usually means that it’s an extra-long song. Not in this case.
What’s so cool about “Push” is that after the singing ends, the song just reprises the gigantic guitar riff a couple of times, and then — having already shot its instrumental wad during the intro — just ends.
Fan-made video for “Push”