Cure Number 16
May 3, 1996
Robert Smith dwells in an art-rock land of dashed hopes, ill-
fated love and heavily reverbed guitars. When he's feeling blue, he
slathers on the suicidal atmospheres as thickly as he applies his
trademark raccoon-eyeliner and blood-red lipstick. It's not a
promising profile for a career, but Smith and the Cure, his band of
ever-shifting collaborators, have somehow managed to endure.
They rattled around Britain's goth-rock underground in the late
'70s, conjured a string of left-field hits and were playing stadiums by
the late '80s, all the while enduring countless lineup changes and
becoming stars in spite of the maudlin frumpery of their painted, pale,
mope-headed front man. On Tuesday, they strike again with their
16th album, "Mood Swings" (Fiction).
From the dour opening pronouncements of "Want," in which Smith
declares "However hard I want/I know deep down inside/I'll never get
more hope/or anymore time" to the giddiness of "Mint Car," which
rejoices, "The sun is up/I'm so happy I could scream," the album
more than lives up to its title. This is matched by a wide-screen
approach to the music that makes "Mood Swings" easily the most varied
of the Cure's studio albums, an eclecticism that doubtless will offend
hard-core purists who like their Cure coated in perpetual gloom,
ala the defining albums "Disintegration" and "Pornography."
Like all Cure releases, "Mood Swings" has its moments of
insufferable self-absorption and musical sloth. The disc dribbles to a
close, with Smith as the dinner guest who wouldn't leave on "Bare."
The ballad seems to end at least twice, only to have Smith gather
himself for another twist of the knife into his love-forsaken heart:
"Turn your face away and say good-bye," he blubbers. "I will never
forget, I will never forget." No wonder why she dumped the guy.
But such moments are balanced by Smith's undeniable gift
for crafting such exquisitely pretty mood pieces ("Jupiter Crash").
giddy pop trinkets "Mint Car", a sequel to "Friday I'm in Love")
and flailing guitar mantras ("Club America").
Add to these standard gambits a bit of string-laden chamber
pop ("This is a Lie"), a flamenco-fired detour ("The 13th"),a
swinging lounge number ("Gone!") and a breathless, horn driven
thrill ride ("Return"), and "Mood Swings" makes for first-rate
If the disc feels less substantial than the 1992 "Wish,"
with its torrential guitar assaults, that's hardly a failing. Hiding
beneath all the tears and mascara, the Cure have always been a
teenybopper pop band. "Mood Swings" indulges that realization without
trivializing or demeaning it.
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