Robert Smith keeps returning to one of his favorite subjects - the demise of the Cure. It sounds more like a threat to himself than to anyone else. One suspects that this is another way of testing his own endurance. One does not discount the possibility that this is another of his famous lies. Smith knows, as well as anyone, that a little inaccuracy saves a whole lot of explanation.
After all, this is not the first time that he has threatened to crucify the Cure. After making the Pornography album in 1982, he announced that the group had imploded, that it was too sick and exhausted to make another record. Instead, he sacked bassist Simon Gallup and reinvented the Cure. When they returned, they left all the angst and self-disgust at home and started to make immensely playful pop records. They started out with Let's Go To Bed (their hopeless attempt at throwaway disco-pop) but recovered to establish themselves as a brilliantly erratic singles band. Between 1983 and 1987, they besieged the chart with Lovecats, the Caterpillar, Inbetween Days, Close to Me, and Why Can't I be You, providing some of the most exciting pop of the age.
They climaxed with the 1987 album, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, a garish spectacular of songs drawn from Robert Smith's lurid dreams. Smith was the first to ask - where do the Cure go from here?
Perhaps it was too easy, the idea of going on and making singles like that, he admits. It was easy in the sense that they were there and they didn't leave me with any scars, on the outside anyway. Musically, the Cure could come out with ten albums a year. Lyrically, it gets harder and harder.
After Kiss Me, there was no way that people could ignore the fact that the Cure existed. But it reached a point where I realized how ludicrous I had become. I realized that I didn't want to be any more famous than I already was. I thought I was already far too well known. There was a paradox in that I wanted to carry on doing things, but I didn't want to be any more visible.
Between Kiss Me and the new album, Disintegration, Smith has sacked keyboardist Laurence Tolhurst, who had been with the group since their inception. He explains that he was sick of Tolhurst's role in the group, as scapegoat and passenger. He also remarks that Tolhurst's drinking habits had become difficult.
If he'd come on tour with us in Europe, he would never have come back, that's how bad it is. I was doing that hedonism bit when I was 23. It would be stupid of me to be doing it when I was 30. If I tried to do that now, I'd be dead. The human body is miraculous but it's not that fucking miraculous.
Although he promised me there'd be no room for lies this time around, Smith admits that he just informed a Japanese journalist that Tolhurst was run over by a truck and still remains in critical condition.
But there are no lies to be told about the record this time, he insists. It's not that it's more real. It's always been a bit unreal. The songs have always been about everything and nothing. On Disintegration, they are just self-explanatory. They were all written during a period last year when I was feeling completely awful. I was very aware that I was reaching my thirtieth birthday. I realized that I didn't want to go on juggling my different personalities. I didn't want to keep worrying about the difference between the public me and the private me. With Disintegration, I knew I was writing about the things that troubled me for the last time. They're all gone now. It's the last time I will write songs about internal disintegration. There's nothing left to say about it now.
Disintegration is the kind of record the Cure might have made in 1983, had Smith not decided to change the plot. Although he scoffs at the notion that it's a depressing record, he admits that it could easily be mistaken as a return to the kind of inwardness that characterized earlier albums like Faith and Seventeen Seconds.
But I'm not a miserable bastard, he chuckles. The only reason the Cure has come this far is that it's such great fun. Whenever the group becomes difficult I just think, "Well I'm going to die anyway, so I might as well have some fun." I'm getting better and better at being Robert Smith. It's impossible for me to take myself too seriously anymore. I don't have a problem with ego or self-importance. It's like death to think like that. The road to conceit is one that everyone seems to slide down at one point or other. I've done it from time to time. The I just send up. That's my way around it.
I'm self-confident in what I do but I still squirm when I'm watching myself on Top Of The Pops. At certain stages, that self-confidence gets undermined. As I get older, I get more and more uncomfortable with what I'm like physically and what I feel like. The Cure gets bigger but I know it's slowing down. It's not a snowball. It's more like pushing a rock up a hill.
I just feel lucky that I don't live in a famous world. I don't know anyone who knows anyone. I don't go out anywhere. I don't mix with people who think it's in anyway important that I'm in a group. I don't see the Cure as a means to an end. It just seems to take control very subtly. Someone gets an idea to do something. Then it escalates and before we know it, we're doing our biggest tour for ten years. Suddenly we're doing Top Of The Pops again and it makes me feel completely ridiculous because none of it seems real. The I look at myself doing it and it looks completely wrong, and that makes me happy.
The Cure go away and come back an nothing is quite the same. They scored their biggest hit to date with Lullaby and a BBC producer tells them that they can not appear on Top Of The Pops with Robert Smith smeared in loud makeup. Smith is somehow consoled by this. It is another reason to let the Cure go on a little longer, although the reasons seem to dwindle as the years seem to pass. To keep the decision at bay a little longer, to create another precious interlude, he has a solo album completed and ready for release.
After that? Well, the Cure might return and they might not. Robert Smith doesn't think it matters anymore. He'll come back and tell a few more lies and make a few more memorable pop records, and invent a few more faces for himself and damn the consequences. Or maybe he won't.
Perhaps I'll just disappear and come back as a window-cleaner or a grocer. If I didn't feel that the Cure could fall apart at any minute, it would be completely worthless.