Deciding how and when to end a successful band and leave the stage is never easy for performers. Go too early, and you’ll be left with a sense of things left undone, doomed to be forever asked when you’re going to be putting the band back together by interviewers and journalists. Go too late, and you’ll be accused of sticking around too long and becoming a pale imitation of the once-dominant musical force you were in your heyday. Very few artists have ever managed to get this balance right. The Cure might be about to join that number – but equally, they might be about to prove that there’s more life in them than even their most devoted fans might suspect.
One of the things that allow The Cure to maintain their mystique after forty years together is that when they’ve got nothing new to share, you rarely see or hear from them. They might make the occasional festival appearance, but aside from that, they recede into the background. You won’t, for example, find songs by the Cure reimagined as (even more) whispery, slowed-down tracks for television commercials, as is the current fad. Nor will you find the band’s faces or music at online slots websites, which is another recent fad. Everybody from Alice Cooper to the Village People appears to have their own Online Slots UK these days, with many of the Cure’s peers included within that collection, but not them. Somehow, the idea of an online slots game based on the Cure just feels wrong, in the same way it feels right for KISS.
The fact that we’re talking about the Cure at all should be a clue that the band has finally broken cover and set about the task of doing something new, and that is indeed the case. For the first time in twelve years, the band is working on a new album. In fact, they’re working on three. Robert Smith is keen to avoid giving a release date for the records but says the first of them will ‘definitely’ appear at some point during 2020. He’s been working on most of the material alone, and when he played it to Roger O’Donnell, it prompted the keyboard player to call it the most intense and sad music that his long-time frontman had ever come up with. When you put that in the context of the band’s entire melancholy back catalog, it’s quite a statement to make.
Whether or not the public ever gets to hear all three albums remains to be seen. While speaking to the NME, Smith conceded that the three albums he’d previously mentioned were actually just two albums and a third project which is ‘an hour of noise.’ There have also been indications in the past that the band are ready to hang their instruments up and call it a day. The album was apparently born from a conversation between Smith and O’Donnell in which O’Donnell persuaded Smith to make ‘one more record,’ ensure that it’s emotionally loaded and dramatic, and then walk away from the music business. This, according to O’Donnell, is that record. If that’s the case, and the recording is intended to be the band’s goodbye message to their fans, the fate of the second album is unclear. Perhaps they’ll release a double album, or perhaps we’re talking about a long goodbye.
The last time we heard anything new from the legendary British band was 2008 when they released the moderately well-received “4:13 Dream.” Smith was known to be unhappy with the production and final edit of the record, having originally written thirty songs for the album with the intention of making it an epic and then being forced, due to a number of logistical issues, to cut those thirty down to just thirteen. He felt that the emotional and sonic flow of the album suffered as a result of that decision, and the decision to end it with a track called “It’s Over” was taken by some as a sign that there would be nothing new released in the future. Happily, that turns out not to be the case, and the band will get the opportunity to take their final bow on their own terms this time. Over-writing appears to be a recurrent problem for Smith; the previous album, 2004’s self-titled (and surprisingly metal-influenced) release, was also a selection of fourteen songs cut down from an original selection of over twenty.
While it’s impossible to know (or even guess at) the number of songs on the album or their nature at this point, it’s probably safe to assume that the life and death of David Bowie will have been an influence on Smith’s writing. He was introduced to Bowie’s music as a child by his older brother and has spoken in the past of taking from Bowie in the creation of past Cure material. The much-missed musical legend, who passed away in early 2016, went from being Smith’s childhood hero to his friend in later life, with Bowie even inviting Smith to sing with him at the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ performer’s birthday party in New York on one occasion. You’ll find many interviews online in which Smith has praised Bowie, Bowie’s music and Bowie’s style, and so it’s hard to imagine that he won’t make at least a passing reference to his fallen idol when given a full album’s worth of material in which to do it. While Smith may have been coy about giving a release date for the album, his insistence that it will arrive in 2020 is useful because we don’t have a lot of 2020 left to play with. Releasing a record close to Christmas strikes us as the most un-Cure like thing we could possibly imagine unless Smith decides it would be funny to do so. If the release were imminent, he’d presumably say so, and that appears to rule out August and probably September too. That leaves October or November as likely launch dates for the first of the albums, and if we had to pick, we’d suggest that there could be no more suitable a date for a new Cure album than Halloween!
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