The Cure - Join The DotsThe Cure, led by the enigmatic Robert Smith, has served as an alternative rock icon now for more than 25 years.

Over that time, the band has weathered numerous lineup changes, as well as extremes of an almost manic-depressive polarity in the moods of its albums, alternating from the hopeless gloom of Pornography and Disintegration to the wildly upbeat moments of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Wish.

Always a band to push the envelope, The Cure has delivered a host of adventurous B-sides and remixes over its tenure, and Rhino Records, in collaboration with The Cure's longtime label home Elektra/Fiction, has pulled together a 70-track, four-CD box set that puts all of those "extra-curricular" songs in one place.

Join The Dots: B-Sides & Rarities 1978-2001 is a must-have for Cure fans. Opening with "10:15 Saturday Night," one of the first demos the band presented in the late '70s to its first record company (and the B-side to The Cure's first single, "Killing An Arab"), the box set progresses through a wealth of B-sides, soundtrack songs (from Judge Dredd and The Crow) and cover songs (including three versions of "Hello, I Love You" and two versions of "Purple Haze").

There are also oddities like "Lament," a "flexidisc" that appeared as the cover of Flexipop magazine, recorded solely by Robert Smith, with help from Siouxsie and the Banshees' Steve Severin, in a low point in The Cure's history when the band had broken up without publicly announcing it.

The booklet that accompanies the four discs gives a fascinating thumbnail history of the band, including the circumstances that surrounded the recording of nearly all 70 tracks.

The box set appears at a turning point for The Cure; in 2000 it recorded what was rumoured to be its farewell album, and the following year ended its relationship of 23 years with Fiction Records. But 2004 will see the band's re emergence on the independent iam/Artist Direct Records.

Echo & The BunnymenEcho & the Bunnymen were an atmospherically dark force on the music scene in the early '80s, during the same formative period as The Cure.

Rhino Records put together a box set, reviewing the band's history a couple of years ago. But now the label has also reissued their five-album catalog from the '80s. From 1980's Crocodiles to the final album of their original incarnation, 1985's self-titled Echo & The Bunnymen, each of the discs is well-packaged and each features at least a handful of bonus tracks.

Their final disc, recorded during the band's disintegration, was also their most popular and features the single "Lips Like Sugar." The reissued version also features "Jimmy Brown," an early version of "Bring on the Dancing Horses," as well as an extended mix of "Bring on the Dancing Horses," which arguably became their biggest (and final) hit.


April March - Triggers April March

Back in 1999, Elinor Blake, an illustrator for the cartoon "Ren & Stimpy," released an independent album, Chrominance Decoder, under the alias April March. The disc was heavy on '60s French lounge music influences, but also featured a dazzlingly spooky bass-funk lounge single in "Sugar."

After more than four years, Blake is back as April March with her collaborator, Bertrand Burgalat. Triggers doesn't have a single quite as infectious as "Sugar," but songs like the snare-happy "Somewhere Up Above" capture a retro mood, a la The Cardigans, while still sounding somehow contemporary.

The electronica influence is heavier this time out than on the more pastoral Crominance, but that's a welcome update to the otherwise four-decade-old instrumentation stylings and Blake's sing-song mix of English and French vocals. "Coral Bracelet" is a bouncy bit of confection, while "The Life of the Party" features subdued synthesizer strings and a lilting vocal melody that seems to be channeled from a coffeehouse circa 1968.

The French-sung "Le Code Rural" seems authentically '60s-ish and foreign, but Blake is, in fact, a native New Yorker and these days practicing her retro stylings from Los Angeles.

If you missed her show last weekend at Chicago's Schuba's, pick up this easy listening mix of techno loops, retro keyboard and bassline flavor and heavy Parisian accents. It makes for a great offbeat mood setter.

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