Rhythm & Views

The Cure

Ambiguity is a difficult concept to learn; the gray areas between black and white are what make for great literature and art. The Cure, during their heyday from about 1985 to 1992, were masters of musical ambiguity; was their music depressing goth rock or sunny pop? When Robert Smith sang lyrics like, "However far away, I will always love you," in "Love Song," with his breathless, mouthing voice, the true meaning was splintered and layered, and the "spider man" having him for dinner that night could have been any number of things.

It's been 25 years since The Cure's first record; Robert Smith is older and fatter, and his wild fop looks a little thinner. Bloodflowers, released in 2000, was supposed to be the final Cure record, but now we have The Cure, and Robert Smith saying on CNN that this is not the end of the band. Bands like 311 are doing uninspired Cure cover songs, and blink-182 even had Smith as a guest vocalist on their last record. It seems, once again, that Smith has set sail on the teenage music sea, but one very important element has evaporated from the waters: ambiguity. Bands like 311 and blink-182 write lyrics as black and white as 1950s television, and the first moment of The Cure sounds closer to that than anything else: "I can't find myself," Smith cries, over and over again in "Lost."

This inability to embrace the gray areas is everywhere on The Cure; "(I Don't Know What's Going) On" is the title of one song, and "Us or Them," which does seem to have an underlying political message, centers around the sentiment, "I don't want you anywhere near me." The recurring emotion on this record is "go away," and the lyrics sound like bad teenage poetry, wrought with utter and complete self-centered frustration. And even though Robert Smith was the original bad teenage poet, at least his songs used to have some kind of metaphoric and narrative structure. Hell, even his first record was based around a literary allusion.

"I do it all like yesterday," sings Smith on "Taking Off," one of the few decent songs on the record, and musically, The Cure throws out every trick they've tried before. It sounds exactly like what you'd expect a Cure record to sound like--same key changes, chord structures and endings. In a way, it's somehow refreshing to hear new Cure songs, but the record is woefully immature. Perhaps, as a Cure fan since age 10, I expect too much, but perhaps with a band like The Cure, one should expect nothing less. If an artist can no longer push the boundaries of his or her art and create something new, then it's time to put down the instrument and think a little harder. "I don't want another run around, I don't want to start again, I want this to be the end," sings Smith on "alt.end," and I certainly hope The Cure has better albums in them, because it would be a damn shame for their late-career records to consistently be this lame.

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