Thursday, September 29, 2011

Curin' with JT - Part 3 – Mainstream Success

Disintegration (1989)

JT’s Thoughts: No album that I’ve ever listened to has had the same staying power and makes me feel the way that this one does. Robert is at his dreary, gorgeous, dreamy best and the band couldn’t sound better. Easily the strongest album in the Cure’s cannon and after 20+ years of constant listening remains my favorite album of all time...period. (A+)

Favorite: ‘Prayers for Rain’

Least: ‘Fascination Street’

Gem: ‘Untitled’

Ok, here we go… JT and I call this one “the Big D” because, well, everything about it is simply big, huge, massive, etc. The personal and emotional involvement I have with this album really makes it difficult for me to be objective, while at the same time there’s nothing I can say that will adequately convey how important this album is, not just to me but period. This is what the previous ten years had lead up to, and yet there was really no way of knowing, from Kiss Me, what those tinkling chimes at the beginning of Plainsong were going to reveal. With keyboards providing an elegant, flowing backdrop, and chiming guitars cutting through with pristine beauty, Robert’s plaintive vocals and lyrics are the cap piece to a mood that is so deliciously melancholy and so sinisterly enjoyable that it’s almost a frightening listen. In a subconscious way, this album has spawned attempted duplications (even by the Cure) for over twenty years, and while that is the ultimate compliment, nothing stands up to the dark, majestic masterpiece that is Disintegration. (A+)

Fave: Untitled

Least: Lullaby

Gem: Closedown


JT’s Thoughts: This album is the little sister companion piece to Disintegration in my book. Songs such as ‘End’, ‘The Edge of the Deep Green Sea’ and ‘Letter’s to Elise’ would’ve fit the mood if not tone of Disintegration, but Robert busts out some of his strongest pop songs and spices things up a bit. ‘Friday I’m in Love’ as well as ‘High’ are wonderfully infectious shimmering pop songs and while this album is no Disintegration, I don’t think anyone really expected it to be. (B+)

Favorite: ‘End’

Least: ‘Wendy Time’

Gem: ‘Friday I’m in Love’

It’s hard to follow up on perfection, and with Wish the Cure sorta tried but also sorta didn’t. The better moments are when they’re going for the latter. This means “bubble gum” pop ditties like High, Friday I’m in Love and A Letter to Elise stand out like shining stars, while more concise “ballads” like Apart, Trust and To Wish Impossible Things are understated gems that get lost between sprawling mini epics like Open, End and From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea. That’s not to say that these latter songs are bad, and I’ve enjoyed re-exploring them for this project, but they sometimes tend to lose focus, and so seem a little pedestrian and ultimately hamper the flow of the album. Throw in a couple of funky head scratchers like Wendy Time and Doing the Unstuck (again, not saying they’re bad songs, they just don’t quite “fit”), and Wish is an extremely uneven listen, especially when one considers some of the fantastic b-sides that could have replaced more “meandering” numbers and fleshed this album out nicely into a collection of mope-pop perfection instead of the indecisive feel of “should we carry on with the scope of the Big D or step in other directions?” (B+)

Fave: A Letter to Elise

Least: From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea

Gem: Cut

Wild Mood Swings (1996)

JT’s Thoughts: I can’t think of a more perfectly named album than this one by the Cure. The album is a mess and completely all over the place mood wise, is strangely compelling at times and downright boring at others. To me the singles are the high point on this album... “The 13th” is the most quirky pop song the band had released since “The Lovecats,” which came out 13 years earlier. All and all this album is an interesting listen but after “Round & Round & Round” the album seems to drag on a bit. (C+)

Favorite: The 13th

Least: Trap

Gem: Round & Round & Round

Initially, WMS starts off as almost a Wish mark 2 with the wailing, epic lament of Want. But by track two things take a quirky, sardonic turn with Club America and pretty much tangent off in one direction or other for the rest of the album. When it first came out I was extremely underwhelmed, but these are songs that really, really stick in your head and over the past 15 years I’ve really come to love it, to the point where it’s in my all time top five Cure albums and one of the ones I reach for most frequently. I know folks saw/see this as a departure, but really, looking back over the past 1.5 decades of their career to that point, the Cure has always been about producing the unexpected while still maintaining a signature melancholy sweet sound. I liken WMS most to Japanese Whispers for a good blend of fun and sulk, and to Kiss Me in the sense of dynamic scope (without being quite as tediously long). As with Kiss Me (and Wish before) it’s the upbeat numbers that work the best, though here they dabble in various styles from bossa nova to jazz (that’s what she wants), with some fantastic horns that go nicely with the more standard Cure-esque pop outings. Still, there are several nice ballads, and ballads more in the “traditional” sense of rock n roll with more straightforward acoustic arrangements (yet another departure), especially the unrequited love song Jupiter Crash, that always takes me back to younger days and the early uncertainties of fresh adulthood. At the end of the day, this is another very mixed bag, yet it’s this diversity that keeps everything interesting, and (unlike Wish) a lack of multiple pseudo epics allow WMS to traverse its emotional peaks and valleys almost seamlessly, making it a highly rewarding listen and a “latter day” (and overlooked) standout for the Cure. (A)

Fave: The 13th

Least: Want

Gem: Return

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