Author Topic: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)  (Read 6221 times)

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Offline revolt_again

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I think that after ‘Disintegration’ The Cure have never really been ‘at the top of their game’, at least in a consistent manner. I don’t know if you all agree, but I’ll try and justify this opinion in the nexts paragraphs.

The 90’s started in a fairly interesting way with the ‘Mixed Up’ album. Sure, it’s not really a great album, and you could also say that it’s not even a ‘real’ Cure album, but quite a few of the remixes in it were really interesting. It was also a surprising move after the deep and atmospheric ‘Disintegration’, and also a bit ahead of its time, since remix albums were almost unheard of at that time, at least by major bands. So… so far so good: The Cure are still able to take risks and surprise, and they can even think ahead of their times.

The next important move, I think, was the all-acoustic MTV Unplugged show in 1991. This was not a very long set but it was an artistic success. It was surprising to hear the band going all acoustic after the mostly electronic ‘Mixed Up’, and also because by this time the MTV Unplugged series was still in its initial stages. I will never understand why this wasn’t released as a CD at the time – it’s the first important wrong decision by the Cure in what would later become a long line of wrong decisions… I mean, soon enough many artists would be releasing their MTV unplugged albums (Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Nirvana…) to the point that it became a kind of fashion, but by the time The Cure recorded their set (January 1991) there hadn’t yet been any MTV unplugged release, as far as I can recall, so it wasn’t like they could be accused of being ‘jumping someone else’s train’ or anything…

Next comes the first real album of the 90s, ‘Wish’. Robert has said before that he felt that they weren’t doing anything new with the album, and although I can’t agree completely with him (I think songs like ‘Open’ and ‘End’ show a more densely guitar-driven Cure that wasn’t there before), I have to say that it is kind of a predictable album. I still think that maybe roughly half of it is very good (maybe even more than a half) and that the best moments even cover quite different styles – guitar driven rock (‘Open’, ‘End’), atmospheric ballads (‘Apart’, ‘Trust’) and pop (‘A Letter to Elise’). The problem is that there are too many substandard moments – ‘Wendy Time’, ‘Cut’, ‘Doing the Unstuck’ and even the unremarkable ballad ‘To Wish Impossible Things’. I don’t think the band gaves us the best they were capable of at this time, because when you look at most of the singles’ b-sides (‘Play’, ‘This Twilight Garden’, ‘The Big Hand’, ‘This Foolish Arrangement’) you easily conclude that the album could have been better had they been included. Also, the original versions of songs like ‘Wendy Time’ and ‘Cut’, as can be heard in the ‘The Cure Play Out’ VHS video, were clearly superior to what you can hear on ‘Wish’… It’s almost as if the band tried deliberately to sabotage their own efforts!

Then comes ‘Wild Mood Swings’, the album that probably sits most unconfortably with most Cure fans. I remember reading that Robert originally intended this album to be in the vein of Nick Drake (that is: slow songs with arrangements with acoustic guitars and strings), but that idea was eventually abandoned during the recordings. You can still hear a bit of what could have been in a couple of WMS tracks (‘Bare’, for instance, I think) and also some of the B-sides (‘Ocean’ comes to mind)… The thing is, I’m not sure if this approach would have suited The Cure, not for a full album, at least. Nick Drake’s music is emotive, yes, but is also a bit too peaceful and sedate – it would probably become boring listening to 10 or 12 songs in a row in this vein. But even this would have been more interesting that what we got with WMS: a sort of emotional-rollercoster album a la KMKMKM, except that most of the songs aren’t good and even the emotions are frequently hard to detect. I think that the only fully successful songs on this album are ‘Want’, ‘This is a Lie’, ‘Jupiter Crash’ and ‘The 13th’. You could maybe add ‘Bare’ there (good musically, but lyrically disappointing), but it would still be too little goodness for a Cure album.

‘Bloodflowers’: admittedly a respectable, serious album, that you can listen to from beginning to end. The problem is that the band sounds tired. It’s like the fire isn’t there anymore (‘the fire is almost out’). Even the lyrics come across as being written by someone who has given up…

‘The Cure’ is a strange album. I don’t agree with the ‘Ross Robinson ruined it’ idea. The guy truly loved the band and he had clear ideas of what he wanted to do with the band. If he had had his say, we would have got a darker and heavier album (not that ‘darker’ and ‘heavier’ necessarily means ‘better’, but I think you understand what I mean). The problem is that Robert had to disagree… He said that if the album was going to be called ‘The Cure’ then it would have to include all the Cure styles, not just one or two. And while this seems to make some sense at first sight, if you think more about it it becomes a bit absurd… I mean, why did the album have to be called ‘The Cure’ in the first place? Isn’t it a bit awkward to choose the name of the album first and then condition all the music you’re making to fit what that title suggests? If the best tracks that were being produced were actually dark or heavy, why not follow that route? This is particularly relevant because when you look at the opposite side of the Cure musical spectrum – the pop songs, it is clear that things were not working anymore. Of the 3 obviously pop songs on the album (‘The End of the World’, ‘I Don’t Know What’s Going On’, ‘Taking Off’), none approach the quality of, say, even something like ‘Friday I’m In Love’ or ‘The 13th’ (which aren’t even among the band’s best pop singles). Of course, this is not merely a question of pop vs. heavy music, because 2 of the rockier songs on the album also don’t work well (‘Us or Them’ and ‘Never’). In the end, what ‘The Cure’ offers us is 3 of the most exciting and powerful songs the band had offered us is years (‘Lost’, ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘The Promise’), one of their most haunting and beautiful ballads (‘Anniversary’) and a also a bunch of other songs that we could very well live without (even if ‘Before Three’ and ‘Going Nowhere’ are kind of pretty).

And last, ‘4:13 Dream’, the album almost without keyboards, the return of Porl Thompson, and probably the most unremarkable collection of songs that the Cure have ever produced (only WMS is more or less in the same league, but I even think that one is kind of better). This is also the loudest (read: overly compressed) record that the band has ever released, which doesn’t exactly help. What more can I say? For me only ‘Underneath the Stars’ and ‘The Scream’ are up to standard. ‘The Hungry Ghost’ should have been good but Robert’s vocals ruin it. The rest is forgettable or even annoying, and even when a good idea comes up (‘Sleep When I’m Dead’ did have potential) the band is unable to develop it as it would deserve.


So, this is it. I realise it is a very long post, and I could have separated it in different posts, each one with a different topic. I also guess that most of what I have written about has probably already been discussed elsewhere in this forum, but anyway I decided to give it a go. I hope you can find the patience to read it all and by all means, be free to reply to all or just some of the topics above, as you wish.

Offline Ulrich

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2014, 20:12:02 »
Then comes ‘Wild Mood Swings’, the album that probably sits most unconfortably with most Cure fans. I remember reading that Robert originally intended this album to be in the vein of Nick Drake (that is: slow songs with arrangements with acoustic guitars and strings), but that idea was eventually abandoned during the recordings. You can still hear a bit of what could have been in a couple of WMS tracks (‘Bare’, for instance, I think) and also some of the B-sides (‘Ocean’ comes to mind)… The thing is, I’m not sure if this approach would have suited The Cure, not for a full album, at least. Nick Drake’s music is emotive, yes, but is also a bit too peaceful and sedate – it would probably become boring listening to 10 or 12 songs in a row in this vein.

Well I heard a rumour that the title "Wild Mood Swings" was tentatively used for Robert's long-lost "solo album" (before it was used for this Cure album). Maybe what you read about the Nick Drake comparison was aimed at his solo album? Makes a lot of more sense to me in that context! Robert, a guitar and some strings, would really sound similar to Nick Drake...
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Offline MintQR

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2014, 20:40:47 »
I think that after ‘Disintegration’ The Cure have never really been ‘at the top of their game’, at least in a consistent manner. I don’t know if you all agree, but I’ll try and justify this opinion in the nexts paragraphs.


Revolt - thanks for this very thorough and insightful post :) Funny enough contrary to your fears I was actually driven to read it when I noticed the "warninag: long post" sign :)

I couldn't agree more.. These are my thoughts exactly. Every single album past Disintegration seems more and more... disintegrated.. less and less coherent somehow...

Not so long ago I met with this... much older than myself Cure fan who told me he decided not to listen to anything the Cure recorder past 1989. At first I was shocked and even a bit angry, not uderstanding how you can just ignore all the other albums, and still claiming to love the band... But there you go - to some people, the era of the Cure ended years ago. I would not go to such extremes because I really like Bloodflowers, I even like some tracks from WMS but this is definitely not the top of my albums.. I'd rahter pick Mixed Up to be honest... The same goes for "The Cure" and 4:13.... Oh - and you could't be more right about the Unplugged Show, I thought it had this unique vibe of a really intimate, small concert given to friends (even if they all seemed to have smoked something funny before ;)

Offline Ulrich

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2014, 09:39:37 »
Not so long ago I met with this... much older than myself Cure fan who told me he decided not to listen to anything the Cure recorder past 1989.

Well, I know these kinds of people as well. Some of them are clearly "living in the past" and/or trying to "relive their youth" by remaining in the 80's musically.

Back then, I was still young - maybe too young, as I did not have enough experience of going to concerts and thus only saw the Cure from the 90's onwards (and every show was worth going).
"Disintegration" was a special album and the whole atmosphere/feeling/melancholy could never be re-created (which is why "Bloodflowers" is very different, but also good), I'm quite certain all involved knew this, including the fans. I'm happy I was there in 1989 to buy the album and listen and deeply feel with the music & lyrics... But I am aware that time has passed and I've grown older, as did RS and the band. Can't really re-live the past, except maybe for a short moment, when they're playing an old song...

I myself am happy that they continued making new music. I agree that not all of it was "perfect" - but I credit them for trying something new, as it might've been easier for the band to just go out on tour playing "the hits"! Which is basically what they've been doing since 2011, playing it safe by relying on the past. Most fans seem to be happier with this, but me...

Looking back, I was happy with WMS (simply because I waited 3-4 years for it after "Wish", but also because I really loved some of the songs) and Bloodflowers (even though I hardly listen to it nowadays).
"The Cure" was rather unexpected, the recording process went so fast. Some great songs, same as on "4:13 Dream" - the strange thing about 2007/8 was that the tour had started before the album release...
In my opinion, some albums suffered on the production side. Dave Allen needs to return!

In short, I would've missed many good songs and spcial live concert experiences (plus recordings, live webcasts etc.) if The Cure had stopped in late 1989.

... Oh - and you could't be more right about the Unplugged Show, I thought it had this unique vibe of a really intimate, small concert given to friends (even if they all seemed to have smoked something funny before ;)

This, for me, was one of the early highlights of the 90's! Much better musically than the "Mixed Up" album to my ears!
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Online dsanchez

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2014, 16:58:08 »
Then comes ‘Wild Mood Swings’, the album that probably sits most unconfortably with most Cure fans.

I think "4:13 Dream" and "The Cure" won that 'award' to WMS long time ago...
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Online MeltingMan

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2014, 10:00:03 »
'Disintegration' is a perfect studio album from an otherwise outstanding live band.
I don't listen to it,when I'm not in the "right mood".Most of the fans love it and don't care
about a missing keyboarder (2008).Not so am I.
Nevertheless,the time for WMS,'The Cure' and '4:13 dream' will come!
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Offline MintQR

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2014, 17:25:37 »
Just a side note to this discussion:

"It's a bit of a crass generalisation, but people whose favourite Cure albums are Pornography and Disintegration are generally more alert and have thought about things"

Offline Matti

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2014, 10:17:12 »
Thanks for your post, dude...

I think that sooner or later every band release their pinnacle album - think of Sgt. Pepper's, The Dark Side of the Moon, Master of Puppets, The Joshua Tree, Violator, you name it. After that, everything will be measured by that 'new' standard, and the band will almost certainly fail.

I do agree that they've never done anything as consistent as Disintegration again, and I think that helps me a lot right now: I just know they're never gonna release anything like that again, so I don't even hope or expect them to.

Having said that I think that Wish and WMS are great albums, Bloodflowers is a good one, and both TC and 4:13 have their moments/songs. It's just that they can't create the same 'flow' or 'deepness' (am I really using these terms in relation to The Cure?), or don't even try.
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Online dsanchez

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2014, 10:25:40 »
Just remembered, a similar topic to this one was discussed sometime ago:

http://curefans.com/albums-and-songs/do-they-have-it-in-them-anymore/
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Offline Ulrich

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2014, 11:49:32 »
"It's a bit of a crass generalisation, but people whose favourite Cure albums are Pornography and Disintegration are generally more alert and have thought about things"

So what about others with different tastes?  :?

What makes me think: the people who "criticise" The Cure for not delivering another "Disintegration" anymore, what have they done in their lifes (work or creative or otherwise)? And what will they do when they are like 55 years old?
(Only a rhetorical question, no-one needs to post details about their life here...)
I myself certainly haven't done anything as great as "Disintegration" (or KM KM KM or HOTD or...) yet and probably never will. I do enjoy my work (not always, but mostly) and hope I still will at 55...

I don't listen to it,when I'm not in the "right mood"

Absolutely, as with many albums, you have to be in the right mood for it!

Having said that I think that Wish and WMS are great albums, Bloodflowers is a good one, and both TC and 4:13 have their moments/songs.

I agree!  :smth023
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Offline revolt_again

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2014, 13:43:34 »
Then comes ‘Wild Mood Swings’, the album that probably sits most unconfortably with most Cure fans. I remember reading that Robert originally intended this album to be in the vein of Nick Drake (that is: slow songs with arrangements with acoustic guitars and strings), but that idea was eventually abandoned during the recordings. You can still hear a bit of what could have been in a couple of WMS tracks (‘Bare’, for instance, I think) and also some of the B-sides (‘Ocean’ comes to mind)… The thing is, I’m not sure if this approach would have suited The Cure, not for a full album, at least. Nick Drake’s music is emotive, yes, but is also a bit too peaceful and sedate – it would probably become boring listening to 10 or 12 songs in a row in this vein.


Well I heard a rumour that the title "Wild Mood Swings" was tentatively used for Robert's long-lost "solo album" (before it was used for this Cure album). Maybe what you read about the Nick Drake comparison was aimed at his solo album? Makes a lot of more sense to me in that context! Robert, a guitar and some strings, would really sound similar to Nick Drake...


Actually, I think that the title 'Wild Mood Swings' came to Robert already in the 80s and it was always intended for a Cure album... And I'm pretty sure I've read an interview with Robert where he mentioned that Nick Drake stuff when discussing the WMS album. Of course, it was so long ago that trying to find that interview nowadays is probably an impossible task.

Offline revolt_again

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2014, 13:45:46 »
Oh - and you could't be more right about the Unplugged Show, I thought it had this unique vibe of a really intimate, small concert given to friends (even if they all seemed to have smoked something funny before ;)

Haha, so you noticed that too...  :-D

Offline revolt_again

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2014, 13:50:48 »
In my opinion, some albums suffered on the production side. Dave Allen needs to return!


I completely agree with you there! I also agree that it was a good thing that the band didn't stop after 'Disintegration', we would have missed many great songs. But it's difficult for a fan to listen to every new album and find out that part of the 'magic' is still there but that Robert seems to have lost his vision...

Offline revolt_again

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2014, 13:55:02 »
Just a side note to this discussion:

"It's a bit of a crass generalisation, but people whose favourite Cure albums are Pornography and Disintegration are generally more alert and have thought about things"

Ok, but I just think that regarding those albums it's more a question of FEELING rather than THINKING...

Offline revolt_again

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Re: The Cure in the post-'Disintegration' years (warning: long post)
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2014, 15:19:52 »
There's something else I would like to add, regarding what I called 'wrong decisions' in The Cure's career... I mainly talked about the albums but singles are relevant too. I cannot understand why 'Burn' was never released as a single - it's such a great song and it manages to be 'completely Cure' and at at the same time be different than the other things they've done. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it's perhaps even harder to understand how a song so mediocre as 'Wrong Number' got the honour of being released as a single. The world is a strange place...

Another thing that bothers me: all these mediocre collaborations that Robert has been doing with other artists.. I think the only exception to this is 'To Love Somebody', which he did with Billy Corgan, and which is really good (even if you can't hear much of Robert in it).