The British pop band, rarely known for putting out a lighthearted song when a gloomy one will do, all but disintegrated after its previous studio album. But out of the chaos, emerged a more relaxed Smith who feels happier now than at any other time since he co-founded the Cure in 1977.
The catalyst for the turnaround was ``Wish'', which came out in 1992. It peaked at number 2 in the U.S. where it sold about 1.2 million copies and was supported with a nine-month world tour. However there was a downside.
``Effectively the whole thing fell apart the following year,'' he told Reuters in a recent interview, amid rehearsals and preparations for another world tour.
Since ``Wish'', two key members quit, the childhood friend who formed the Cure with Smith sued him in a royalties dispute, and an exhausted Smith retired to the sidelines for a year to consider his future plans.
The sabbatical ``gave me an opportunity to extract all the elements that I'd enjoyed in the past like making the record, going on tour and playing -- things that I'd liked about being in a group -- and get rid of things I didn't like, and in effect start from scratch.''
Re-energized, Smith got together again with bassist Simon Gallup and guitarist Perry Bamonte, re-hired keyboardist Roger O'Donnell who had quit in 1990 and added drummer Jason Cooper after advertising in a newspaper. The Cure's line-up has changed constantly over the years, and Smith is the only original member.
Basing themselves in the English countryside, they spent 18 months recording the songs that would make up ``Wild Mood Swings'', their 10th studio album.
``In the past I've tried to retain control and I've struggled to retain control,'' said Smith. ``This time I've allowed enough time to address all the different areas that go into making a record, and allowed myself time to enjoy it.
The optimism seems misplaced for a performer whose melancholy music and style helped the Cure sell 25 million records worldwide. Smith makes an appropriate frontman with his electrified hairstyle, lipstick and pale face make-up.
The band led the New Wave explosion that arose from the ashes of punk and has endured changes in taste to become a staple of the burgeoning modern rock format, outlasting peers such as the Smiths and Joy Division.
Smith's plaintive anthems, ranging from ``Killing An Arab'' and ``Boys Don't Cry'' to ``In Between Days'' and ``Friday I'm in Love'', have become modern rock classics. His look has been adopted by hardcore fans as well as alternative performers such as Marilyn Manson.
However Smith has never taken stardom seriously and thinks it's the ``road to madness'' to look for Cure influences in other bands. He doesn't hang out with his pop star peers and leads a private life with his wife, Mary.
Some juicy tidbits about the Cure did emerge in a London court during 1994 when Smith was sued by Lol Tolhurst, who left the band in 1989 and claimed he was owed a bigger share of the band's royalties.
Smith successfully defended the action by showing that Tolhurst was a drunk who made negligible contribution in his final years. Before the judge's ruling, Smith and Tolhurst argued who was the bigger drunk. The court heard tales of practical jokes and alcoholic excess, including a $3,000 bar bill run up by the band on the Orient Express.
``It was very Kafkaesque,'' Smith says of the trial. ``I really couldn't believe it was happening in a lot of ways.''
The experience isn't revisited on ``Wild Mood Swings'', which picks up where the relatively upbeat ``Wish'' left off. The songs range from the exhortatory ``Gone!'' and the joyous ''Mint Car'' to the wistful ``Strange Attraction'' and the more traditionally despondent ``Bare'' -- Smith's favorite track.
He says the album is more autobiographical but still ``pure entertainment'', a tag which wouldn't apply to some of the Cure's dense work like ``Pornography'' (1982) or ''Disintegration'' (1990).
But the Cure are consistent in one way, Smith says. ``We've never taken ourselves seriously and said, 'This is our big opus.' That's the road to dinosaur rock.''