Wild Mood Swings

Boston Phoenix
May 1996
Amy Finch

Nearly 20 years on, there's a certain irony in how the Cure stays so
unpredictable and beloved by those subterranean masses decorated in
black eyeliner and melancholy. The clique of Cure fanatics is vast
enough to pack football arenas, but the godfathers of mope have yet to
sell their souls to mainstream tedium or expectations. On Wild Mood
Swings (Elektra), their 10th studio release (available May 7th), the
band don't offer any immediate knockouts, but there's enough emotional
intricacy and musical flourish (so many cheery blasts of brass!) to make
most of it worthwhile.

Wild Mood Swings lifts the band into even sunnier spheres than did the
last studio disc, Wish, four years ago. This ought to revolt old-school
fans even more did the sweetness of "Friday I'm In Love" or the
goofiness of "High," both of which were at least partly shaded by the
sorrowful catch in Robert Smith's throat. Wild Mood Swings is a
melodramatic title for an album that's free of the moroseness Smith's
vocal cords seemed born express at least since he sobbed, "It doesn't
matter if we all die" 14 years ago on Pornography (Elektra). On Wild
Mood Swings, the numbers that exude regret do so with an airiness
entirely new to the Cure.

Over the years the Cure has played everything from jumpy new wave and
Eastern-tinged exotica to achingly lovely pop and clamorous guitar-rock.
But never have the toot of horns and the lilt of strings had such an
impact on the overall mood of the Cure album. Which is interesting,
because Disintegration-era keyboardist Roger O'Donnell has returned but
has not brought back any of the synth heft of that album. (Also in the
line-up is new drummer Jason Cooper, who joins bassist Simon Gallup and
guitarist Perry Bamonte.)

Over the years, the very nature of Smith's tearful wail has made it
difficult for the Cure to express much in the way of giddiness or
whimsy. He's not exactly the clown price of self-sustained misery
(hello, Morrissey). Still, Smith can't possibly be as earnest as his
warble has suggested. If he were, he would've moldered in some dank,
shuttered bedroom long ago.

In a recent interview with MTV Brasil, he more than once distanced his
real-life self from the songs on Mood Swings, describing them as being
"not really me." One such number, "Want," he also described as "kind of
like a sister song" to "Never Enough," from the Mixed Up disc. True,
"Want" also arrives in a howl of guitar, plus it's about insatiable
hunger. For drink, dreams, jokes, lust, lies, hate, love, pain, and a
trip to the moon. But "Want" isn't anywhere near as furious or metallic
as "Never Enough," a song that demonstrated just how comfortably the
Cure could churn out a killer headbanger. The difference can be extended
to all of Mood Swings, which is far more wistful and subdued than the
Cure have ever been.

At the same time the disc is also more playful and sly. One number,
"Club America," finds Smith doing a deep, cowboy swagger that renders
him pretty much unrecognizable. He's the consummate asshole, well-versed
in phoniness and schmooze. "I wanted to come across as something a bit
more monstrous than I actually am," he told MTV Brasil. Well, it's a
success, assuming he's not much of a monster. More proof of how adeptly
Smith crawls into a persona for a song.

The strongest example of the Cure's foray into mirth comes in the form
of the first single off Mood Swings, "The 13th." It's a bossa nova-toned
cream puff of horns and giddiness in which Smith sings: "From time to
time her eyes get wide/she's always got them stuck on me, I'm
surprised/at how hot honey covered and hungry she looks/and I have to
turn away to keep from bursting/yeah, I feel that good." And, yeah, for
once he truly does seem to feel that good---the inborn melancholy of his
voice is lost in what sounds like delirious contentment.

Pair that with the kindred delirium of "Mint Car" and you've got to
wonder if Smith has discovered some miraculous psychotropic drug. What
else could cause him to bubble over with lines such as "The sun is up,
I'm so happy I could scream/and there's nowhere else in the world that
I'd rather be/than here with you, it's perfect, it's all I ever wanted"?

There's no mandate that says the Cure must give voice to nothing except
romantic failures and fairwells, to being loved too much or not enough.
The world ought not to begrudge Robert Smith frivolity now and then. On
the other hand, it's not too surprising that one of the stronger Mood
Swings songs is "Jupiter Crash." In it a boy and a girl stand on the
beach expecting an encounter of cosmic scale, only to drift apart in a
tide of disappointment and loneliness. Is that all there is, they're left
to wonder. Which is the way people might feel after hearing Mood Swings.
That is, if they're expecting the immediate flash and beauty of another
"Friday I'm in Love" or "Just Like Heaven."

Sometimes, though, happiness is enough.

Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 15:00:07 CDT

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