By Mark Guarino
It’s official: the Cure’s Robert Smith has more common with Cher than just lipstick application and teased hair.
Four years ago Smith officially signed off on two decades of service as Britain’s exemplary goth pop export. But after a farewell album and tour, he sat back to witness his band’s incarnation in every new group that tuned their guitars low, dressed in trim black suits and infused romantic doom in their lyrics. The flattery could only go on for so long before the Cure used it as a cue to cash in and stake their claim as the true godfathers of gloom.
Which brings us to this summer with a new album, “The Cure” (Geffen), in stores this week, and Curiosa, a traveling festival featuring the Cure with their many young disciples — Interpol, the Rapture, Mogwai, the Cooper Temple Clause and Melissa Auf der Maur. (The tour arrives at the Tweeter Center Aug. 12.)
So is the Cure’s return worthy of a broken promise? Somewhat yes. The best part of “The Cure” is what we didn’t hear on “Bloodflowers” (Elektra), their former exit music. Unlike that album’s quiet fade to black, “The Cure” rings of some of the ebullient pop melodies of the band’s career.
Smith, 45, sounds newly engaged as a singer and his band re-energized. The album is loaded with love songs but thanks to co-producer Ross Robinson, responsible for dealing with the angry young men in Slipknot, Limp Bizkit and Korn, the sentiments are louder and more wildly exaggerated. Fitting right in with their classic singles a decade ago, “The End of the World” does not forecast armaggedon but is actually a bouncy celebration of final truths with its “ooo-eee-ooo” background choir and Smith declaring, “I couldn’t love you more.”
There’s plenty of pretty to go around and by Robinson notching up the guitars, that translates to prime ear candy which includes the slurpy guitar line of “alt.end” and the syncopated jangle of “Before Three” — both time-honed Cure signatures.
But except for “Us Or Them” (a current-minded affair in which Smith sings, “‘I live in knowledge of real truth/and all my gods are great!’/the doleful cant of a bigot/blinded by fear and hate”), the Cure sound stunted for anything new to say. “(I Don’t Know What’s Going) On” is basically the title admission sung on repeat and the excess of dirges, including the 10-minute non-song “The Promise,” seem like expressionless filler. Deciding to live up to your legend after bowing out can be predictable but never glorious. Just ask former Washington Wizard Michael Jordan.