’ve been waiting for this one. Watching, as a faint trickle of rumours gradually meandered their way into a steady stream of information. Puzzling, as Ross Robinson was announced as co-producer. Wincing, as I heard about his bizarre team-building exercises. Praying. Always praying. Not for rain; but for a final vision which could lure me into a crazy, dreamy Head On The Door dance, stab me icily through the heart with Pornography and leave the same beautiful, tear-soaked impression as Disintegration. This is my impossible Cure dream. What’s yours?
Such is the curse that must be carried by all dedicated acolytes to the Church of Cure (the mothballed jumper can be itchy, but you get used to it). We want it all. Every single myriad aspect of a twenty-five year career distilled into (give or take) twelve precious moments. But can miserable-mopey-melty-makeup Cure and whirly-trippy-cat-noises Cure ever actually co-exist in a workable relationship? Their unjustly maligned first child, Wild Mood Swings, is still locked in a damaging custody battle. The Cure tries to make its parents proud.
Aforementioned crazy uncle Ross has also made an appearance, bringing a few strangely over-processed guitar noises with him. More productively, he seems to have lured Robert Smith back into fine vocal form. There’s classic yowling action aplenty all over the swirling, discordant opener “Lost”. Freaky, squeaky flourishes last spotted on “High” work their way into most of the poppier material (“Taking Off”, “The End of the World”). This will probably spread joy and irritation in equal measure. Unquestionably though, Smith is emoting and embellishing like it’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me all over again. He’s also swearing more. Tsk.
Such invocation of previous material is a recurring theme. Not in a way that suggests blatant rehashing (save for pinching the riff from “In Your House” for “alt.end”—although that ends up working rather well), but almost as if this were a bizarre ‘Greatest Hits’ package from a parallel universe. Every Cure era seems to be represented; in a snatch of melody, mood, or lyrical phrasing. No sooner has “Lost” bludgeoned its way past in a storm of flange and fuzz and “Labyrinth” done its eastern-strings-and-loud-guitars thing to conclude a battering opening salvo than tickets for the colourful bus to wistful dreampop land are thrust into our twitching hands. “Before Three” is one of those tracks. You know, a little “Letter to Elise”, a touch “Just Like Heaven”. All sky and flowers and regret.
It works because it remains subtle. Delicate. Previous albums are touched, stroked—but never plundered. You can’t hear “The Promise” without discerning echoes of “The Kiss” amidst those ever-building layers of screeching feedback. “Taking Off” hints at the whimsy of “The Caterpillar”. “Us Or Them” can surely only be a redirection of the anger spilling over from “Shiver and Shake”. This feeling falters, if only for a moment, in the form of “Never”, which just sounds like that slightly rubbish Cure song you don’t especially like.
Due to insane record company shenanigans The Cure has been issued in roughly fifty-seven different versions. My (UK) edition has thirteen tracks. US folk; please start asking stern questions as to why the hauntingly marvellous “Going Nowhere” is missing from your release. Think of the essence of “Homesick” squeezed into three and a half minutes. Seriously, start writing to Senators or something—this is a national tragedy. You’re missing “Truth, Goodness and Beauty” too, but whilst it’s a pleasant enough jaunt, that’s not such a big deal.
I really have no idea where The Cure will ultimately fit in the grand scheme of Cure history. In all honesty I felt that Bloodflowers would be the last album (yeah, I fell for that old trick again). There are entirely too many nods to the past for this album to be a fresh start, yet it refuses to slip comfortably into place in their catalogue. It’s strange, it’s beautiful, it has the odd terrible lyric. I’ll keep wishing impossible Cure things. In the mean time, this will serve.