This song is sort of like Moby Dick
(the novel, not the Led Zeppelin song
). Really, it is.
Just as Herman Melville gave us enough to know that the whale in Moby Dick
symbolizes something extraordinarily significant yet left things ambiguous enough that everyone can project their own interpretation, Metallica frontman James Hetfield paints a picture of disease in "Cure" but keeps it gray enough that we can all give a different take on it. It's the same lyrical tactic employed by artists like Bob Dylan, and some would even argue it's an essential quality of all good art - hook 'em with something heavy but leave enough room for their imaginations to fill in the rest.
All that being said, "Cure" is generally not considered high art. It's mostly looked at as a pretty good song, if not totally forgettable throwaway album filler. That's not Songfacts' take, but rather the general consensus. In a retrospective piece
concerning the Load
album, for instance, Joseph Schafer of Decibel
wrote, "The weakest parts of Load
, songs like 'The Cure' and 'Thorn Within,' could be Danzig songs." Minus the Danzig part (Danzig fans would surely consider that a compliment), that pretty much sums up how "Cure" is viewed by Metallica fans. For non-Metallica fans, it basically doesn't exist.
The song's lyrics actually do offer up an interesting examination, however.
"Cure" opens with a man who "takes another bullet." Here, the meaning seems to imply that the bullets are metaphors for drugs or booze ("he takes his medicine").He thinks the answer's cold and his hand
He takes in his medicine
The man takes another bullet
He's been fooled again
After this verse, though, things get hazier, and the substance-abuse angle seems too narrow a take.
Besides the unnamed man, the one other character mentioned in the song is an unnamed woman.The lies tempt her and she follows
Again she lets him in
She must believe to fill the hollow
She's been fooled again
Here it's less certain that substance abuse is the problem. It seems to have something more to do with a person. Possibly she's one of those unfortunate women who are so desperate for love that they're willing to take in (consciously or unconsciously) an abusive man to fill that need. The rest of the song, though, grows even vaguer.Betting on the cure
It must get better than this
Betting on the cure
Everyone's got to have the sickness
'Cause everyone seems to need the cure
Addiction and abusive relationships may indeed be issues in this song, but neither seem to be the essential core. The song is more of a general observation that everyone feels something is missing in their lives and everyone is looking for some kind of external cure, whether that's drugs, love, money, video games, fame, or [insert your preferred stimulus here]. In that way, "Cure" links somewhat to another Load
song, "King Nothing
," which is obviously about this subject.