For a long time, maybe 15 years or so, Robert Smith rumbled about the Cure's imminent retirement whenever the band had a new album ready for release. Invariably, Smith said the particular album served as a fitting epitaph, and it was now time for him to bring the Cure to an end and pursue something else, maybe a solo career, maybe a new band, maybe nothing else. This claim carried some weight when it was supporting a monumental exercise in dread, like Disintegration or Bloodflowers, but when applied to Wild Mood Swings, it seemed like no more than an empty threat, so fans played along with the game until Smith grew tired of it, abandoning it upon the 2004 release of his band's eponymous 13th album. Instead of being a minor shift in marketing, scrapping his promise to disband the Cure is a fairly significant development since it signals that Smith is comfortable being in the band, perhaps for the first time in his life. This sense of peace carries over into the modest and modestly titled The Cure, which contains the most comfortable music in the band's canon -- which is hardly the same thing as happy music, even if this glistens in contrast to the deliberate goth classicism of Bloodflowers. Where that record played as a self-conscious effort to recreate the band's gloomy heyday, this album is the sound of a band relaxing, relying on instinct to make music. The Cure was recorded and released quickly -- the liner notes state it was recorded in the spring of 2004, and it was released weeks later, at the end of June -- and while it never sounds hurried, it never seems carefully considered either, since it lacks either a thematic or musical unity that usually distinguish the band's records. It falls somewhere between these two extremes, offering both towering minor-key epics like the closing "The Promise" and light pop like "The End of the World." It's considerably more colorful than its monochromatic predecessor, and the rapid recording gives the album a warmth that's pleasing, even if it inadvertently emphasizes the familiarity of the material. Which is ultimately the record's Achilles' heel: the Cure have become journeymen, for better and worse, turning out well-crafted music that's easy to enjoy yet not all that compelling either. It's not a fatal flaw, since the album is a satisfying listen and there's also a certain charm in hearing a Cure that's so comfortable in its own skin, but it's the kind of record that sits on the shelves of die-hard fans, only occasionally making its way to the stereo.
The Cure Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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