Sunday Morning: Growing Up With The Cure

What happens when you outgrow the soundtrack?

Director Michael Leigh's "Career Girls," released last year, is a film about two young women -- Annie (Lynda Steadman) and Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge) -- who shared a flat when they were punky girls going to college and who, six years later, meet up for a weekend of hangin' out, catching up and reminiscing.

I saw "Career Girls" for the first time last night. It's an insightful film that, I would imagine, could scare quite a few alternakids. Or maybe not, depending on whether one sees "growing up" as a positive thing, or a one-way trip to hell.

One thing the two career girls share is a love of the Cure. A Cure poster is up in their college years flat. When the girls first meet they talk about digging the Cure. The Cure's music plays repeatedly during the film.

Rock 'n' roll was the soundtrack, the backdrop for these girls when they juggled college and guys. Now, years later, with establishment jobs, their leather jackets replaced by the kind of professional women's wear appropriate for the office, rock 'n' roll has, mostly, been left behind.

At one point, toward the end of the film, standing on a London street corner, they notice a poster for a new Cure album. Hannah says she hasn't listened to the Cure in years; Annie responds, slightly embarrassed that she still listens to the Cure on occasion. You get the idea, though, that even for Annie, the Cure don't mean what they once meant.

Growing up with the Cure. What a funny concept! And yet its not really so funny. Some bands -- the Cure, Sonic Youth, the Rolling Stones, the Who, U2 -- have careers that span ten, fifteen, even 30 years. Attend a Stones or U2 or Who concert and you will certainly find lawyers and doctors and corporate execs who smoked their first joint while grooving to one of those band's music when they were freshmen in college.

But if rock, when you are 15 or 18 or 20, is a way of rebelling against the status quo, against ones parents, school and whatever else seems constricting in your life, then what happens when you grow up, when you join the middle class, when you realize that, no, you're not going to be the next Thurston Moore or Andy Warhol. Or Michael Leigh.

I mean, if you're 45, working at an ad agency, and put on your old Sonic Youth CD so you can listen to "Teen Age Riot," what's going on? Is that a nostalgic act done with the intention of bringing to mind the good old days? Has that song now become entertainment, and nothing more? For that ad guy, is listening to Sonic Youth's old music no different than his parents listening to old Frank Sinatra records?

I don't know the answers to those questions. Some would argue that rock 'n' roll is merely entertainment. Tell that to an 11 year old with a Spice Girls poster tacked to the wall.

In Leigh's film, discarding the trappings of youth as one grows up is natural, inevitable. Cure music, no matter how much it meant to Hannah when she was in her 20s, means nothing now.

That certainly says something about Hannah and those like her. Perhaps it says nothing about the Cure, or their music. I'd like to think so. [Sun., Feb. 15, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]