The Cure's Gothic Swan Song

The Cure - Bloodflowers
(Fiction / Elektra)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

You'd think that after 20 years of self loathing and shoegazing that The Cure would actually have snapped out of all their brooding and moping. But then again all of the alienation and maudlin emotions that singer / songwriter / guitarist Robert Smith has exuded over the years has been what strangely facsinates his audience. Their dark, hypnotic music helped pave the way for dozens of goth rockers and neo-glam boys in the '80s and early '90s and while never really breaking through to the mainstream, despite a few Top 10 hits, they have amassed a huge cult following, both male and female easily recognized by their trademark sloppily applied mascara, lipstick and stiff black mops of black hair, all in emulation of their dark prince - Smith.
Though the band has seen numerous personnel changes throughout the last two decades, Smith has remained the constant core of the band. With such a unique and recognizable voice it hasn't seemed to matter much who's in the band , just as long as Smith is the one doing all the warbling. On his latest lineup he's brought back original bassist Simon Gallup along with newcomers guitarist Perry Bamonte, drummer Jason Cooper and keyboardist Roger O'Donnell.
In the late '80s and early '90s Smith and company occasional rose above the gloom and doom to produce a handful of catchy dance hits that brought the band more attention, but it's always been their more introspective work that has kept luring in more faithful followers. On their 13th studio album Bloodflowers, Smith is still following that dark trail and has produced what he claims is an end of a trilogy - one that started with the ominous, downward spirals of 1982's Pornography and the atmospheric 1989 release Disintegration. The album opens up with a haunting out-of-body guitar as Smith ponders the thought of leaving someone he loves behind on "Out Of This World", while his tales of woe and doomed relationships continue through the oddly sunny "Maybe Someday" ("If it can't be like before I've got to let it end"), the fragile "There Is No If..." ("Remember the first time I told you I loved you... you sneezed... I had to say it didn't say a word") and the poignant "The Last Day Of Summer" ("All that I feel for or trust in or love...all that is gone").
Although the droning number "Where the Birds Always Sing" never quite takes off, the soaring eleven-minute epic "Watching Me Fall" typifies the band's signature gloomy reverb and nocturnal musings, finding a neutral ground for both mope and hope. A light, refreshing hip-hop beat on "The Loudest Sound" turns out to be the one thing that helps clear away some of the cobwebs from their gothic attic.
Smith has proclaimed the demise of The Cure in the past, but now, as he turns 40, he reveals on the song "39" amid Hendrix-like guitar pyrotechnics, "I used to feed the fire...but the fire is almost out, and there's nothing left to burn." If this truly is the end of The Cure at least Smith had enough kindling left to get his swan song Bloodflowers ablaze.

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