What could be more obvious than Robert Smith, pop music's manic-depressive poster boy, naming his band's new album Wild Mood Swings? Isn't that a bit like Alanis Morissette calling her follow-up Blow Jobs and Bad Poetry, or Hootie & the Blowfish releasing Four Boring Guys and a Bag of Golf Clubs?
Be that as it may, The Cure's first new studio album in four years is a lot more manic than depressive. In fact, much of it sounds downright cheery. Its high points may not rank with the best of 1986's Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, and it doesn't maintain the consistent moody power of 1988's Disintegration, but, like most of The Cure's catalog, it's a solid, varied effort.
Smith and the band have discovered the joys of brass this time around, using horns to punch up several cuts, especially the wild, calypso-flavored single, "The 13th." The cleanly arranged soul-pop of "Strange Attraction" is even more catchy, while "Mint Car" will certainly lure fans of the classic Cure sound. In some cases,though, Smith's manic side leads to a penchant for over-arrangement.
The brass parts on "Return" only serve to make a small mess larger, and rather than creating a transcendent Van Morrison-like vibe, the cheesy electric piano on "Gone!" detracts from the song's otherwise inspiring rebelliousness.
Amidst all the tumult, Smith scores his highest marks on the slower, more angst-ridden numbers. With its simple, echoed chorus and "Strawberry Fields"-like keyboard and string parts, "This Is a Lie" builds a persuasive case one line at a time. "Numb" is a beautiful expression of anguish, and the closing "Bare" marks the wistful end to a relationship without apologies or remorse. The Cure may not sound new anymore, but there's still no one else quite like them, and their muse remains surprisingly undimmed.