eye Weekly
Toronto's arts newspaper
July 11, 1996
Perry Stern


Friday, July 12. Mosport Park. $130 at Ticketmaster, 870-8000, or 1- 800-588-0313.

The only problem with The Cure is that they're The Cure. If anyone else made Wild Mood Swings -- anyone 10 (well, maybe 15) years younger than Robert Smith, that is -- they'd send Trent Reznor snivelling back to his comic collection and be hailed as the new godhead for disenchanted youth.

But in this biz, "old" and "bad" are synonymous and 20 years of big hair, dark moods, too little humor and too much lipstick generally lead to both the loony and the remainder bins. Still, much to the dismay of many, The Cure thrive.

No one could be more pleased with this than keyboardist Roger O'Donnell. A victim of the band's apparent revolving-door policy, O'Donnell was with The Cure between 1987 and '90. For the next five years he lived here in Toronto and owned the clothing store Uncle Otis. It's fair to say that he pined to be back in the band, and a year-and-a-half ago he got his wish.

I wasn't sacked and I wasn't asked to leave, O'Donnell explains, which is more than the five or six Cure casualties can say. Since 16- year-old Smith formed the Easy Cure in '75 he claimed the members (and Mary, his eventual wife) were his only close friends, but internecine battles have regularly broken out. Tension on the Disintegration tour in 1990 was thick. Says O'Donnell, At the time I thought I was leaving because I thought I didn't get on with a couple members any more, but when I think back now it had more to do with me trying to get away and do something on my own.

The band O'Donnell returned to is far different from the one he left. Guitarist Porl Thompson and drummer Boris Williams, both with the band since 1984, are gone, replaced respectively by Perry Bamonte and Jason Cooper. Thompson had helped define the epic Cure sound, although he was apt to slip into a rut. Without him on Wild Mood Swings -- the group's tenth album -- the Cure are much less predictable than they have been for years.

The record company would like to call this a greatest hits album because the songs are so different that they could each be from a different album, O'Donnell says, adding that this was not Robert Smith's initial intent. While Wild Mood Swings careens from dirges to wacky Latino swing (The 13th) to mawkish pop confections like Mint Car, the sombre sounds of Bare and Jupiter Crash were the core of the album. Acoustic guitar, acoustic piano and a string quartet -- a really sparse sound. That was going to be the whole album. If it had been made in six months (instead of 18) it would have stayed that way, but as more songs were written it started to spread out. Different influences and sounds started to slip in and Robert thought it was silly to lose songs that were good that didn't fit into that formula. O'Donnell says that fans who don't like the Wild Mood Swings of the album proper can get the feel of the original idea by collecting the eight non-LP tracks on the two singles.

When The Cure were announced as headliner for one of three Eden Musicfest evenings, many were surprised. As he had done several times before, Robert Smith announced that the 1992 world tour for Wish, their best-selling album to date, would be their last. He'll deny he ever said that, O'Donnell says with glee. Put it in black-and-white in front of his face and he'll deny it. Play a tape and he'll say, 'I didn't say that!' He's brilliant at that. He'll argue that black is white -- and win!

Smith doesn't even mind flying any more. Says O'Donnell ruefully, I'm the added safety net. I've got my pilot's licence so he won't let me drink on a plane in case the pilot has a heart attack.

But even though this is a good time for the band, O'Donnell is savvy enough to have expected what he describes charitably as a huge slagging in the British press. Says he, We're not 19 and we're not Britpop. Whole interviews will be going on about what we look like, how old we are, how pointless we are, why are we still going? And at the end of it they'll say, 'This album has no right to exist in 1996, but actually I quite like it.'

Which, come to think of it, is probably the way I would have reviewed it. Robert Smith has spent 20 years tapped into the motherlode of post-adolescent angst and there will always be millions of teenagers who can relate intimately with his words and music. He may have an arrested development, but he works it really, really well.

Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 14:59:56 CDT

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