There’s a monkey who watches the news in the Guggenheim in Bilbao. An artist named Francesc Torres put him there. He’s sat on a rotating high chair, and as it turns his simian gaze takes in first the television playing CNN, then glacially slow footage of the Russian Revolution, Hitler’s rise to power, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at the Yalta Conference, the creation of the state of Israel, decolonization as represented by Algeria’s war of independence and Gorbachev taking control of the Soviet Union. Finally he sees an etching by Goya, in which fortune punishes those who have risen to greatness with downfall. History stutters past as the baffled chimp watches on. I think I know how he must feel, and I don’t even own a rotating high chair. That monkey doesn’t know how lucky he is.
I’ve come to Bilbao to weigh up whether either Radiohead or The Cure can lay claim to being the foremost proponents of live “alternative rock” in 2012 or whether fortune is grasping their ankles and precipitating their downfall.