There it is, that familiar sound. A voice both pinched and distended, that never sings so much as yelps, sticking the words with voodoo pins before every bleated enunciation. There’s the distressed guitar, squirming in tense arpeggios over an undertow of spiralling keyboards. And that face, staring out blurrily from the cover – no mistaking it. The iconic, scouring-pad hair. The slipshod, blind-man’s make-up. It’s [a]Robert Smith[/a], the prototypical, unapologetic goth – and this, of course, is The Cure‘s 13th (again, allegedly final) album. Now, here’s the surprise: rather than drive the nail in the coffin of The Cure‘s moribund 23-year career, ‘Bloodflowers’ reopens it, replays it, and finds it worthy of reinvigoration.
Smith has proclaimed this record to be the completion of a trilogy which includes 1982’s abrasively jagged ‘Pornography’ and 1989’s cohesively atmospheric ‘Disintegration’. Gone are the ill-advised brass and bare-faced chart aspirations of 1996’s awful ‘Wild Mood Swings’, as are the flippant pop songs that commercialised The Cure in the mid-1980s. What we are left with is the dark, dense core of Smith‘s psyche, and a reminder that The Cure are at their fearsome best when creating soundscapes awash with uncertainty and dread. These are ugly songs, shot through with ghastly, obsessive beauty. They have no real structure, just an uncoiling, miasmic sprawl. Three of them are over seven minutes long.
). The motif is of a man looking back over his life with nostalgia, longing and some regret. Yet although his posture is one of finality, it is not one of defeat. Smith is determined to rage against the dying of the light – his only weakness is that he has no new weapons with which to fight.
Smith has gone back to a template he devised long ago and has taken it to extremes, pushing into corners of disillusionment it never before quite reached. ‘Bloodflowers’ may not convert any new fans, but it will certainly not disappoint the old ones.