Wish (Elektra/Fiction 61309)
Wish sometimes gets painted as The Cure's "happy album," though I wonder if that's just a relative comparison. It's certainly a bit more poppy than most of their other albums, and several cuts are genuinely zippy ("High," "Friday I'm in Love," "Doing the Unstuck"), but the majority of the album is very much in the somber, self-analytical vein of the band's more characteristic work. This is one of The Cure's finest albums, a worthwhile successor to the staggering reach of Distintegration, though not an overall stunner like that album was. It's full of brilliant moments, though the presence of b-side-at-best "Wendy Time" smack dab at track #5 sinks it a bit. Even so, nearly every other cut is amazing, and only a couple lapse into "same old Cure, seen it" territory ("Open," "Cut"). The passionate and intense "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea" alone is worth every penny you pay for the disc, and the deeply sad ballad "Trust" is nothing short of phenomenal. "A Letter to Elise" is a real connoisseur's Cure single, right up there with "Charlotte Sometimes." This is an older but not much wiser Robert Smith than the desparing lad who gave us such uplifting bits as "For how much longer can I howl into this wind?" and "It doesn't matter if we all die." The album quite directly addresses loads of difficult themes, mainly centering around breakups, communication breakdown, alcohol binges, loss, lament. Well, what else would you want from a Cure album anyway!?
With his cracked voice and imponderable harmonies, Robert Smith doesn't always seem as great a songwriter and musician as he really is. He sublimates himself so totally into the emotional thrust of his music that you can lose sight of how tight and intelligently crafted his songs are. The depth of sadness and pain that he projects is always reined in by ultimately catchy melodies, clean (but big) production he makes music to turn the hell up and crash on the floor to, just letting the songs wash over you and leech the fucking angst right out of you. No surprise, then, that this was a big college album for me; it was released right in the middle of my college years and at the peak of my Cure fandom, and at one of the many memorable depressed phases I've always enjoyed. Those were the days! Actually, it's weird listening to this now, since I associate it so closely with those times, and now that I'm more or less "grown up" I don't connect with it in the same way. The Cure is the perfect soundtrack for an unhealthy lifestyle, but their albums are also just good in and of themselves as music. So I still listen and appreciate, and love this album.
People dis the singles, especially "Friday I'm in Love," but you can't knock a song that good, especially since Robert Smith knew exactly how goofy it was when he recorded it. Unlike, say, "Shiny Happy People" by REM, which is more pandering and ironic, "Friday" taps into a real euphoria that is pretty contagious. Several other songs carry that buoyant spirit as well, but the tone of the album is bleak. "Please stop loving me! I am none of these things!" he sings on the closing track, "End." The desperation is palpable. I wouldn't have been at all surprised if this had been the last Cure album ever. It was the end of the classic lineup with Boris Williams on drums and Porl Thompson on guitar, but the band soldiered on. The more recent record Bloodflowers is a damn good piece of work, though it's not grabbing me quite as much as this one did. And though I feel less impact now ("Apart," for example, used to tear me up, now I hear it as a little forced), I still feel it. That is the one thing you can always count on from a Cure album. Wish isn't a perfect album, but I love it, just like my handicapable brother.
Review by Randall Bojaanson