Four years ago, it seemed as if The Cure had run its course. They’d completed Bloodflowers, the third in a career trilogy of particularly “dark” albums that included Pornography and Disintegration. Leader Robert Smith gave some interviews that pointed to the band being at the end of the line. They left their career-long record label (Fiction), and for a time, were silent. But Smith couldn’t leave music behind, collaborating with the likes of Blink-182, Saffron and more. And over the past couple years, bands like The Rapture and Interpol came along, mining the “sound” of The Cure to good effect and critical acclaim (they both will appear as part of the Curiosa festival).
When producer Ross Robinson, (Korn and Slipknot) who’d “grown up” on The Cure and has publicly stated in the past that working with them would be his ultimate dream, pitched Smith on doing a new album in a new setting, the singer couldn’t resist. The result is The Cure, a declaration of renewed principle for the band. Back with a new label and a new energy, for the first time in more than 20 years the band recorded the album playing live in the studio, rather than with each player recording their parts separately (a standard way of tracking an album). Robinson claimed the band responded more intensely to Smith’s vocals in a live setting, and certainly The Cure bristles with more energy than any other of the band’s efforts of the past decade.
While Bloodflowers had a dreary, melancholy vibe to it, and Wild Mood Swings a cheery pop flavor, the driving emotion of The Cure seems to be anger.
While the lead single “The End of the World,” with its “couldn’t love you more” lyrics, bouyant harmonies and jaunty bassline offered an easy radio single of the “Friday I’m In Love” variety, much of the rest of the album finds Smith spitting jibes into the mic over some relentless rhythm beds. In “Us Or Them,” over a snarl of buzzing guitars, he screams of lies and being “blinded by fear and hate” and cries “I don’t want you anywhere near me/get your f__n’ world out of my head.”
And in “Alt End,” he declares ambivalence about the end of a relationship over a sparsely picked guitar line that leads to a pounding chorus: “I want this to be the end/I don’t want to start again/I want this to be the last thing we do/it for me and you.”
If anger is an overriding theme, musically The Cure manage to canvass the bulk of the styles they’ve explored as a band over their years. They don’t revisit the punchy horns of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, and the blatant one-finger keyboard stylings of their early years aren’t as visible as they once were, but there are touchpoints on this album to virtually all phases of the band’s career.
The disc opens with a somewhat new sound for the band, a chugging, dissonant guitar riff as Smith sings of a familar theme -- “I can’t find myself” he bemoans in “Lost.”
Then it’s on to the Eastern-tinged guitar and drum textures the band explored in the ‘80s with “Labyrinth” and the Wish-style falsettos and deceptively upbeat “yeah, yeah, yeah” lyrics and chiming, repetitive guitar lines of “Before Three.”
The simple keyboard lines and high-end guitar chimes of “(I Don’t Know What’s Going) On” and “Taking Off” hark back in different ways to The Head on the Door and Wish, while the “The End of the World” features the moody, surreal quality of echoing guitars and placid but dark synthesizers that hallmarked Disintegration. The album closes with “Never” and “The Promise,” which both feature the harder, jammier guitar attack and vocal angst of Bloodflowers.
The Cure are definitely back…and proving once again that nobody does
Catch The Cure Live at Curiosa tonight, at the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park.