Wednesday, 17th October 2018. 8:23:07pm ET


Artist: The Cure
CD Title: The Cure
Label: Geffen
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 7/1/04

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The Cure's brand new self-titled album has been the center of a lot of hype. Phrases like "best album ever" and "best thing they've done since Disintegration" have been flying around like wildfire, and the band has been receiving more mainstream publicity than they have since 1992's hit album Wish. Perhaps the most surprising fact about the rumors and industry comments is that they're partially true. While writing off the last 15 years of the band's history is more than a little insane, the new album certainly ranks among their best.

The recent Greatest Hits singles and even, to some extent, 2000's Bloodflowers found the band spinning their wheels a bit, content to rehash the past and cater to their fan base with the "trilogy" ideology and a handful of decent but unexceptional retro pop singles. The Cure, however, finds the band once again on track and somewhat radically reinventing their sound with the help of unlikely producer and rabid Cure fan Ross Robinson. Forcing frontman Robert Smith to explain the meaning of each song to the other band members while sitting in a circle and then having them record the basic tracks live in a confined space by candlelight, Robinson pushed the band to the edge and into unexplored territory. The result is an album that's arguably edgier and more passionate than anything they've done in the last decade.

My immediate response the first time I heard the album opening "Lost" was slack-jawed bewilderment coupled with the word "Holy" followed by a number of expletives. The first Cure track to send a shiver up my spine since the 13-minute live version of "A Forest" from the Show video, it's filled with an entire career's worth of intensity as Robert Smith screams "I can't find myself" with more heartwrenching conviction than his infamous live improvisation of "Faith" inspired by the Tiannemen Square incident. "Labyrinth", on the other hand, sort of took me by surprise, mainly because of the fact that it didn't really sound like The Cure. Sure, the eastern psychedelic sound was mildly reminiscent of some of the material from Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, but the layered single-riff-based song I was hearing didn't really sound like anything the band had done before. However, as the song picked up momentum and built to an incredibly intense finish, it proved to be one of the album's best tracks, a sentiment that was fortified upon subsequent listens.

Next up is the first of the album's two more pop-oriented sections. "Before Three" is sort of a blend of upbeat guitar pop and melancholy rock that finds Smith melodically recalling "the happiest day" complete with a few "yeah yeah yeah"s and occasional detours into falsetto territory. "The End of the World", the album's killer first single, perhaps stood out as the least consistent song in the album's tracklisting, seeming quite out of place after "Before Three". Still, it's an amazing slice of pop with impressive keyboard work from Roger.

"Anniversary" was the second song on the album to leave me breathless. Certainly among the best moody tracks the band has ever recorded yet unlike anything they've done before, it's a swirling atmospheric dirge of layered keyboards and guitars moved by electronic drums. It is, perhaps, the most melodic and electronic track on the album, yet its layering and powerful sound adds an impressive air of heaviness. The following "Us or Them" lifts a guitar lick or two from "Watching Me Fall" but actually manages to rock out and build to an intensity far greater than "Watching Me Fall" was ever able to muster as Smith angrily wails against the portrayal of terrorism by the media as well as the mentality of religious/political factions.

The album's second more pop-oriented set kicks off with "alt.end", something of a blend of "39" and "In Your House" that combines the rock mood and keyboards of the former with a lead guitar riff very similar to the latter. The result is a catchy track with a toe-tapping rhythm that seems to be the obvious choice for a second single. "(I Don't Know What's Going) On" is definitely another standout on the album, built around catchy hooks with an updated rock sound and a swooning falsetto chorus, while "Taking Off" is sort of the album's classic upbeat Cure pop track with great keyboard melodies and smooth lead guitar riffs.

"Never", apparently originating from a demo by drummer Jason Cooper, seems to be this album's "Wendy Time" or "Round & Round & Round" in that it's definitely the track that seems to be getting the most criticism from fans. Some of that criticism is justifiable. It's certainly not the most immediately memorable song here and is arguably the least Cure-esque moment on the entire disc. In fact, it almost sounds more like an old Smashing Pumpkins b-side than a Cure album track. Still, it's a good song that seems to get marginally better with each listen.

"The Promise" closes the album (at least the US version) with a killer 10+ minute dark, psychedelic rock epic that slowly and effectively builds intensity before ending in feedback and guitar noise. While many fans will undoubtedly complain about the omission of "Going Nowhere" from the US version of the album, "The Promise" is, perhaps the perfect end to this decidedly guitar-heavy rock/pop album.

The accompanying 20-minute DVD that comes with the deluxe version isn't really anything special. It's basically made up of footage of the band's studio setup along with in-studio performance footage set to instrumental versions of "Lost" and "The Promise". However, the third and final track on the DVD is a version of "Truth, Goodness, and Beauty", a song that was cut from most CD editions of the album, featuring full vocals (perhaps an outtake rather than the final version?). Hardcore fans might want to pick up the deluxe version for the extra song alone. However, those that want to save a few bucks and go for the standard jewel case version can take satisfaction in knowing that they aren't missing out on much. Note that both the deluxe and standard versions of the CD are also enhanced, allowing users to access a secret website with exclusive interviews and the ability to listen to a handful of instrumental demos of some of the tracks.

As a long-time Cure fanatic who has heard every album in their back catalogue so many times the number approaches fictional proportions, The Cure blew away all of my preconceptions and redefined the band's sound into something fresh yet undeniably Cure-esque. Of course, you can't please everyone, and the fact that this release is a more streamlined rock/pop album, especially the US CD (which cuts some of the moodier tracks found on other versions of the album), probably won't set well with fans looking for another Disintegration. However, fans that are willing to accept the band's evolution will find an incredible rock album full of energy and passion that finds the band rejuvenated both creatively and mentally (and, in Simon's case, physically…I swear that guy has stopped aging). If Bloodflowers was the swan song of a tired, disillusioned, middle-aged band, the aptly self-titled The Cure is the perfect rebirth.

 

The Cure website: www.thecure.com

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