Is The Cure Emo or Goth? (or post-punk)

The Cure emerged as a post-punk band over 40 years ago. Over time their sound evolved and has gone through both dark and upbeat periods. But many fans wonder, Is The Cure emo or goth?

The Cure is most definitely not an emo band, but the goth label does fit much of their catalog. However, frontman Robert Smith does not consider The Cure to be emo or goth. And in fact, The Cure predated the creation of both terms.

Goth was born out of the late 70s and early 80s punk movements. Out of that came various sub-genres, some of which combined dark clothing and music.

At least in that era, goth songs incorporated heavy bass, keyboard, and its overall theme sounded mysterious, melancholic, and cold.

The Cure began utilizing abrasive and dissonant sounds along with dark lyrics, at least initially and up through the album Pornography. But following that release, they were also producing lighter, poppier songs too.

But the members have continuously rejected labels of either genre in their music. So what kind of band is The Cure, if they are not emo or goth?

Let’s find out.

Why is The Cure considered goth?

The Cure is often labeled goth due to the dark and melodic undertones and intensity in their music and lyrics of torment, dreariness, depression, combined with their penchant for wearing mostly black clothing and smeared makeup.

The band entered the post-punk movement with the album Three Imaginary Boys.

However, by their second studio album, Seventeen Seconds’ release, the members adopted an increasingly tormented and dark style. Combined with their stage look, the group helped evolve a genre called Gothic rock.

The music was highly intense, dark, and consisted of gloomy tones captured with strangulated vocals and a lyrical obsession for worldly despair heightened by Gallup’s heavy bass.

Not convinced that bassist Simon Gallup is one of the best bassists to come out of the ’80s?

Read my recent article to know how Gallup helped the band give its unique position. Ironically, he wasn’t the founding bass player for the band, and Robert Smith once fired him!

Just click that link to read more on my site.

NME declared the band during the 1980s:

“a Goth hit machine, an international phenomenon and, yet, the most successful alternative band that ever shuffled disconsolately about the earth”.

Here are The Cure’s greatest Goth albums  

  • Faith 
  • Pornography 
  • Disintegration 
  • Bloodflowers

However, Robert Smith has gone on record multiple times to claim that The Cure is not a goth band. Also, it is worth saying that just because a band is labeled goth doesn’t mean it is goth.

Is The Cure goth punk?

The Cure was born out of the punk movement, but even their earliest recordings would not be considered punk. Post-punk is a better term to describe them. And over time, whatever punk leanings the band may have had have largely gone away.

Of all the subcultures which originated in the 70s to 90s in the post-punk era, ‘goth’ emerged as the most talked-about genre probably because of bands like The Cure.

However, the band’s leader Robert Smith gave an interesting contradiction: 

“I don’t think of The Cure as a goth band. I never have. I grew up in a world where goth hadn’t quite been invented in the way that we know and love it. But real goth bands were around. But was I responsible for goth? No.”

The band leader also added that goth inevitably influenced The Cure in giving their music the darker hues noticeable in ‘Pornography’ and ‘Faith.’

This album was the essential album of the form, and the audience felt its fever pitch for decades.

And even when the band attempted to step out of the goth image through songs like, ‘Let’s Go to Bed’, ‘Love Cats’, and ‘The Walk’, people hated them because they jumped away from goth.

And then when they did Friday I’m In Love, many of their original fans fled the band in disgust.

But according to Smith, people forgot that they also had produced albums like: ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ and ‘Seventeen Seconds’, which had nothing to do with goth.

Smith did feel the spirit of goth and this subculture but chose to live an alternative lifestyle.

What’s the difference between emo and goth?

Both movements (emo and goth) rose from punk rock in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Emo stands for emotional hardcore and is typically much more punk-driven and faster. By comparison, goth is slower, darker, and much more likely to use synthesizers.

Also, the term emo really didn’t start to become widely used until the mid-90s.

Emotional Hardcore is the type of punk rock that emerged out of Washington DC in the mid-80s. It was an attempt to experiment with chaotic music patterns and personal expression in abstract ways.

Emo as a genre:

Introverted, sensitive, angry, shy, depression, suicide, self-injury

Style: Focuses on sonic dissonance. Think: My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy.

Goth as a genre:

Introvert, isolation, intense. Focuses on methods in music, art, media, literature, fashion, poetry.

Goth is a genre that emerged in the late 1970s as alternative music primarily characterized by introspective, dark, intense, and romantic lyrics.

Style: Focuses on slow, dark, melancholy sounds Think: Bauhaus and Joy Divison.

For many, Smith’s inclination towards emotions and charged lyrics were mainly a result of his relationship with Mary Poole, who he married in 1988.

But is Smith still married to Mary after all the years?

Read my recent article where I have discussed their relationship in detail and which song we wrote specifically for her. But I also get into whether they are still together or not.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What was The Cure’s darkest album?

The darkest Cure album by far is Pornography which is their 4th album. However, current Cure keyboardist Roger O’Donnell recently said their latest album (currently untitled) is the saddest, most intense, and most emotional and is based on their experiences of life’s darker side. 

Yet to receive any title and a release date, The Cure’s 14th album could be their darkest album ever. The idea for which was fed to Smith by the band’s keyboard player Roger O’Donnell.

O’Donnell told RadioX: 

“Four years ago, I told Smith,”We have to make one more record. It has to be the most intense, most dramatic, and most emotional record we’ve ever made, and then we can just walk away from it.””

Smith agreed to O’Donnell’s suggestion and finished the album.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times, Smith told the paper:

“This new Cure stuff is very emotional and most notably darker than the others. It is very doom and gloom. And we are close to being done.”

On asked why this new album is so darker, Smith added: 

“I feel I wanted to do something that expresses the darker side of what I’ve experienced over the last few years – but in a way that will engage people.”

Most of the time, Robert Smith isn’t the only guitarist in The Cure. But he was the only one on some of their greatest albums in the early days.

So is Smith a good guitar player?

Check out my recent article to find out. I get into the complete history of his playing, what his favorite guitars are, and when and why he chose to use other guitar players like Porl (Pearl) Thompson.

Do Goths still exist?

Goths as a subculture of the punk movement do still exist in all corners of the world. The top bands of that genre today include: Cold Cave and She Past Away, in addition to such mainstays still performing like The Sisters of Mercy, Dead Can Dance, and Clan of Xymox.

Emerging in the 70s, goth was widely accepted by teens. They identified with it and felt drawn to the dark side of things.

But nowadays, it would be safe to say goth’s popularity has declined some. 

But it is definitely still around. It’s also morphed a little as I got into a heated discussion with my 14-year-old daughter about goth, and she proceeded to tell me I knew nothing about it (which, of course, is pretty laughable).

I discovered a community of goth’s online where a user mentioned: 

“We grew up, got old, and disguised ourselves as Normal People. By day we work in offices, hospitals, stores, etc. We listen to The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie, and the Banshees, in our cars when we commute- blasting loudly from our car stereo via Bluetooth. We listen to music at home, or maybe The Sandman on Audible. We watch TV, play games, pet cats, etc.”

It appears even the goth communities have moved online from the streets. Young people don’t go out as much as the 80s goths did. They’re more apt to just be on their phones.

The Evolution of The Cure: From Goth to Pop and Back Again


The Cure is often identified with the gothic rock genre and is viewed as the genre’s most standard propeller. However, the band has routinely dismissed this classification.

Generally, this labeling is less about the music they have produced than it is about the look.

Over the years, their music seems infused with emotional tones (Love Song) and gothic (Cold) tones. But these examples are nowhere near passionate hardcore or gothic. There may be influences felt at some points.

The band frontman Robert Smith himself refutes considering the band as goth or emo.

Photo which requires attribution:

The Cure en Chile by Carlos Varela is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

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