The demise of The Go-Betweens in 1990 left The Cure without clear rivals as the best band in the British Commonwealth, and therefore, the world. The title Wild Mood Swings states their case; to put it as simply as possible, Robert Smiths's silly songs are sillier and his sad songs sadder than anyone else's.
The Cure will doubtless be accused of repeating themselves, and it's true that songs such as Trap seem Cure-by-numbers. That they can usually inspire long after the ability to surprise is gone is actually in the group's favor.
The crown prince of lipstick and tent-dressing rarely takes the easy way. The 13th is the year's hardest listening single, a cross between The Love Cats and The Caterpillar, with a loopy horn chart. Half the songs on Wild Mood Swings feature either horns or strings, to varying effect. This is a Lie is sublime; keyboards and strings entwining like a DNA helix. The lyric is one of Smith's darkest and most beautiful, reaching beyone the point of wonderment and pain to the emotional emptiness that lies within.
Those who would dismiss Smith as a moper, though, miss the point. Strange Attraction is a polar opposite, a poppy little number about a fan encounter with a twist ending. It could almost be true, if it didn't come from a man happily married to his childhood sweetheart, who writes songs about lying to rock writers.
All of life is included in The Cure's music, not just slices of it. Wild Mood Swings is what you'd expect from a Cure album, circa 1996, in turns melodic and intense, flying in a million directions at once. Still the best band in the world, by a mile.