For two decades, The Cure has released some of the most harrowing, frightening, and wonderfully suffocating music ever recorded (Pornography and Disintegration alone!), while simultaneously mining a variety of whimsical muses (from Boys Don't Cry to The Walk to Why Can't I Be You). Their career is a study in wild mood swings; appropriately, a variety of emotional states now permeates their new LP, Wild Mood Swings, rendering this LP a capsule of all they've ever done. Smith, in New York for the Cure's first-ever appearance on Saturday Night Live ("They thought I was kidding when I finally said 'yes' after all these years"), likes the ideas behind his new album. "I've been different over these 20 years. I've not been living in suspended animation;I've changed a lot. And there have been seven distinct lineups --all very different. If we individually made LPs, they wouldn't be anything like a Cure album. Individually, we like very disparate kinds of music."
The good thing about making piles of money for record companies is that The Cure has the clout to follow their visions. "I've decided that anything I do will be exactly how I want it to be -- not what's imposed on me from the outside. It does take a lot of effort to retain that kind of control, but it is worth it in the end. Look at touring: We have had a lot more say in the routine, including deciding how many days we have off.
Everyone tells me that's economically unsound," Smith grins. Of course, the artist with complete control often succumbs to dangerous bouts of self-indulgence. But Smith believes that's a risk worth taking, and believes that they've used -- rather than abused -- the freedom it implies. "There are very, very few things we've done that I would go back and change. They've all been for my own personal reasons. Some of the reasons have been suspect occasionally -- I've kind of fallen over a few times! But I carry around in my head a definite idea of what the group should be, and what the group does. Within that, we can do anything."
Of course, for each additional year they persist, more journalists want to write them off as some other era's band. This holds especially true in England: "The British media do not applaud longevity; they'd like us to crawl away and die somewhere. It's elitism, musical snobbery. It's true that a lot of people who've carried on making records shouldn't have; many of the people I've admired have lost their original spark. But it's because they're scared to change the way they work, what they do." The last benefit of popularity is the freedom to say no, to not do anything if you don't want to -- and to even make only two or three albums a decade. "I don't understand this obsession with banging out records. What a stupid attitude! Like the world is holding its breath waiting for the next Cure album. It isn't."
Maybe not, but we've held our breath for much less. (Tusk anyone?)