Friday, 5 March 2010

The Cure, Wish (1992, Fiction)

Wish was The Last Of The Great Cure Albums and a true testament to their artistic and commercial peak.

By the early Nineties, The Cure had become one of the biggest bands on earth. A succession of outstanding records, The Head On The Door, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and, above all, Disintegration, introduced the band to vast audiences worldwide and turned it almost into a cult, something The Cure achieved without particularly bowing down to any passing trend.

When Wish came out in 1992, it was billed as a departure from the epic, dark and orchestral atmospheres of Disintegration.

The slight wink at early 90s outfits such as Ride, Curve and My Bloody Valentine is audible in the band's extensive use of distorted, wall-of-sound, noisy guitars which sit on slightly dance-y basslines and drumbeats.

Which is how Wish starts. The aptly titled Open is a loud, brutal, 6-minute-long event, possibly the most guitar-laden Cure track up to that point in their career. Based on multi-layered distorted guitars, tons of feedback as well as a heavy, solid drumbeat, Open strikes a unique balance. It's relentless, intense and claustrophobic, but also strangely hypnotic and captivating, with Robert Smit's voice at its most spell-binding: smooth and passionate, melodic and strained at the same time.

As the first track ends, it's apparent that in no way is this a more light-hearted affair than Disintegration.

The mood, however, changes with the second track, the stunning first single High, probably the last Cure single to display their trademark chiming guitar lines (think Pictures of You but also In Between Days except more polished and refined).

When the dark and gentle Apart breezes in, it's quite clear that Wish is much more diverse than Disintegration. This is almost a bipolar album: an emotional rollercoaster of intense, relentless, almost violent tracks sitting alongside catchy singles but also resigned and minimalistic melodies.

From The Edge of The Deep Green Sea is textbook in the way a heavy, repetitive, layered, and reverberant sound can still come across as strangely melodic. This is Robert Smith at his most inspired, displaying a strong sense of melody that unfortunately won't be seen again in his career.

Another outstanding track is the grand, mood boosting Doing The Unstuck: "Tear out the pages with all the bad news/Pull down the mirrors and pull down the walls/Tear up the stairs and tear up the floors", sings Smith.

Friday I'm In Love is the album's most popular track and possibly the most radio-friendly stuff The Cure ever released bar The Lovecats. Its jangly proto-Shiny Happy People-era REM mood explains why it spent most of 1992 on air, but it's also remarkably irritating - with its demented spelling out of the seven days of the week sitting too much at odds with an otherwise perfect album.

Trust and A Letter To Elise both take Wish back to more meaningful territory, displaying the band's more subdued side and a partial departure from the guitar-driven mood that permeates the album.

And then Cut kicks in, hitting you with a bang and grabbing you by the jaffas. Loud, violent and noisy, it anticipates the template for the latter stage of their career, in particular 2004's Ross Robinson-produced album The Cure. "When I look at you/I see face like stone/Eyes of ice/Mouth so sweetly telling lies/I wish you felt the way that I still do", tortured lyrics that leave you wondering who may have pissed Robert Smith off so much.

Things calm down again with the quiet-after-the-storm To Wish Impossible Things, one of the album's finest moments. Driven by a melancholic viola, and coloured by a slightly oriental tinge, this gem of a song gently explores the themes of absence, loss and regret.

End, you may have guessed, is the final song. Possibly one of the most claustrophobic tracks ever produced in rock music, it could have come straight from the band's Pornography period. Marked by an incessant guitar refrain, noisy feedback played backwards and seriously agonising vocals, End is basically Robert Smith explaining why he's had enough: "I think I've reached that point/Where giving up and going on/Are both the same dead end to me/Are both the same old song". A superb track, but one to handle with care.

In short, aside from enjoying immense commercial success, Wish was The Last Of The Great Cure Albums and a true testament to their artistic and commercial peak. Soon after, unfortunately, a combination of line-up changes, the advent of Britpop and who knows what else meant The Cure ran out of steam.

Wish, however I will always remember with particular affection as it punctuated my teenage years and contributed to shaping my taste in music. I bought the vinyl on release and I still own it. It is literally worn out.

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