A mammoth tour followed before the band returned home and went into hibernation as, first, guitarist Porl Thompson left the group, followed by drummer Boris Williams and, briefly, bassist Simon Gallup.
A lengthy court case also intervened when vocalist Robert Smith had to fight former member Lol Tolhurst for the right to use the band's name. For a while, it looked as if there might be no band at all, regardless of who won, but, four years on, The Cure are back with Wild Mood Swings, their 10th studio album and one which long-time manager and head of Fiction Chris Parry bullishly predicts will be, "the Cure's biggest album ever".
Smith accepts there was a time when it might not have come about. "I thought things might end after Wish because that line-up had been together so long I didn't see where else we could go. But I'm glad things fell apart because it means everything's changed. We've almost gone back to a punk ethic - we do everything ourselves now."
To this end, the album was recorded in a rented house belonging to actress Jane Seymour in Bath using studio equipment specially purchased by the band for the project.
The original idea was to record an acoustic album in a weekend but first Smith had to find a drummer. Following extensive auditions of 164 sticksman, the eventual replacement was ex-My Life Story drummer Jason Cooper. And the sprawling nature of the sessions and an intervening summer festival tour meant the acoustic idea was dropped. The album took almost a year to record up to December 1995 and Parry describes the result as "a dizzy ride, more so than most Cure records. Structurally it's like The Head On The Door, very taut, a lot of pop songs. Lyrically it's very fine, too."
Wild Mood Swings certainly reflects its title, a name which nearly graced Smith's first solo album in the early Eighties, with consistent changes of musical mood and tempo. It features typically atmospheric, sweeping Cure songs set alongside intense pop moments and unusual arrangements with horns and strings frequently to the fore. "I think this album is very diverse," agrees Smith. "And I wanted that to come across. The gap we've had allows us to start again in some senses." The album's diversity has been accentuated by the use of a number of different people on mixing duties, including Alan Moulder, Radiohead duo Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade, Tim Palmer, who has worked with Pearl Jam,Tom Lord-Alge who mixed Black Grape's It's Great When You're Straight and Mike 'Spike' Drake,whose most recent project was Babylon Zoo.
And despite the four-year absence, both Smith and Parry are confident the band still have an audience. "I'm aware of things and I still listen to a lot of music but I'm not worried about where The Cure fit in. I never feel we're competing for space," explains Smith.
Parry says, "It's easy to say that Robert has been around for 16 years and not many bands last that long - but it doesn't make sense. U2 and REM have been around as long and no one says that about them." Nevertheless, he is disappointed with Radio One which he feels was slow to add the first single, The 13th, to its playlist. "Radio One dragged its heels but they'll realize quite soon that The Cure are an important band," he says.
The record and its bizarre Sophie Muller-directed video, featuring a transvestite, a mariachi band and comedians Rob Newman and Sean Hughes,have been well received here and in the US where the track was the most added modern rock release on radio and the promo was played seven times on MTV on the first day.
The US remains a strong priority for the band. "America is a very important territory for the band and we're quite proud of The Cure's record over there," says Parry. Marcia Edelstein, senior marketing manager at the band's US label Elektra has worked with The Cure since the mid-Eighties and is keen to assert her company's commitment to the album. "It's a huge priority here," she says. "The Cure are enormously important to the label,they've developed in a wonderful way over the years and we're all very excited about this release."
The aim is to establish the band back in their base in the US alternative scene and on college radio. Press coverage has been carefully selected to reflect that with cover stories for hip titles such as Raygun and Pulse.
The band are also flying in to promote the album, and an appearance on Saturday Night Live is scheduled for May 11. A 40-date tour will follow after Smith has had his fill of football at the Euro '96 Championships.
One benefit of releasing a new Cure album is the effect it has on the band's extensive back catalogue. Special deals for retailers are planned allowing them to restock the band's albums and sell them at near mid-price rate for a limited period. In the US, there has been a stop on all Cure material for a while and now there is a restocking campaign designed to encourage back catalogue purchases.
Although The Cure are the only act on the Fiction roster, following the demise of Eat and God Machine, Parry hasn't been idle and has been in serious negotiations with the PRS in an attempt to administer the band's own royalties. Parry is also the biggest shareholder in alternative radio station XFM which will hear in October whether it has been successful in its final application to the Radio Authority for a Londonwide FM licence.
He is hopeful that this time they will win. "I believe in it because I know how wonderful a market is when you have stations like it. I can't imagine what it would be like in the US without modern rock stations - they're a wonderful asset."
Smith is also an XFM director, but his support is tempered by a degree of realism: "It is an alternative station and it can't be watered down. This is our last chance and there are a lot of politics involved - some people don't like the idea of a disaffected youth having a voice in London. I don't know how they'll be able to justify it this time if they don't give it to us."
If XFM does obtain its licence, a track from Wild Mood Swings would be an apposite choice for its rollercoaster ride at the hands of the licensing authority.