The Cure : The Cure
If it's really the end, it's some way to go...
For the first time ever, Smith isn't in charge of production. Ross Robinson, who's worked with Slipknot, Korn and At The Drive-In, drove the band to near-mutiny in his search for the ultimate performance. And it shows. No easy walk through a few pop moments and the odd glum one for the old skool, it is startling from the first listen. Opening with the brooding dirge of 'Lost', the band are heavier, more menacing, more rhythmic than ever. Smith recalls being "so happy and so young", but admits, "I got lost in someone else", perhaps his own myth. 'Labyrinth' barely lifts the mood, its deep blue psychedelic heart carrying Smith's tortured performance. "The day is done/The house is dark/It's not the same you", he cries, his voice rising to a scream. Cure haven't sounded this malevolent since 'Pornography' and Robinson is intent on not allowing Smith's melodic side to throw easy pop bait over the side of his sleek, black destroyer. When the classic Cure moments come - and 'Taking Off', 'Before Three' and 'The End Of The World' are up there with the best - they're still heavy, still focused on moving Cure forward if, at the same time, Smith's lyrics are as unguarded and romantic as ever ("We were so in love/In the sea of gold", "Tonight I share with you/ Tonight I'm so in love with you", "I'm trying to be the one for her/Trying to be in love").
Elsewhere, 'I Don't Know What's Going On' finds Smith scat-singing his way to a falsetto chorus that's so un-Cure it's like a tiny, pointed reinvention all of its own. 'Anniversary' has a Moroder-ish disco tint and an operatic chorus. 'Alt.end' rides a riff halfway between Cure of 1980 and U2's 'New Year's Day' as Smith celebrates this "big, bright, beautiful world" while insisting, "I want this to be the end/I want this to be the last thing we do", while 'Us Or Them' (a reaction to 9/11?) is the angriest Cure track since 'Shiver And Shake'.
Smith has said of this record, "If you don't like this, you don't like us," and when you give your album the same name as your band, you need to be sure you can stand by every moment. They can, and they undoubtedly will.
'The Cure' is not an easy album to love. It's oppressive and relentless at times, it never, not once, lets you off the hook without a fight. But it shows a band on the verge of a whole new future. Whether they actually want it or not is a lot less clear. Rob Fitzpatrick
Get 'The Cure' at the NME Shop
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday