“When we look back at it all as I know we will/you and me, wide-eyed/I wonder will we really remember/how it feels to be this alive?” So begins the journey of listening to the Cure’s new record, Bloodflowers.
No band has ever come close to matching the melancholy of the Cure’s Robert Smith. He delivers his lyrics with such gravity and wilting seriousness that it’s often a fight for listeners’ eyes to keep dry. For this reason, the Cure have lived out much of their tenure in isolation because of their reputation for being so depressing. After all, looking at the present state of popular music, if a band’s music sounds anything other than syrupy-happy or pissed off, mainstream pop music is more likely to reject it.
Fittingly and not surprisingly, the vast majority of Smith’s lyrical subject matter on Bloodflowers deals directly with the band calling it quits after over 20 years of fine service to the music community. It’s an album about being the last album. With lyrics like, “Side by side in silence, they pass away the day/So comfortable, so habitual… and so nothing left to say” (“The Loudest Sound”), the message is that of a casual conversation gone dry. Not due to negative circumstances, but due to finality and an air of accomplishment. The circuit has run its course for the Cure, and they have chosen to go out with their finest record since 1989’s Disintegration.
Bloodflowers consists of only 9 songs, and all but a few are over 5 minutes in length, with one of them (“Watching Me Fall”) surpassing the 11-minute mark. What make the songs so blasted long are the extended introductions. Some songs continue to meander and build up for upwards of 2 minutes before Smith utters the first word.
That is the strength of Bloodflowers. It is not a case of the Cure failing to get to the point; it shows maturity on their part not to want to blurt everything out right away. Their growth is obvious in how seamlessly the song structures mesh together. The gloominess is still present in full force, but buried under the suffocating melancholy is an undercurrent of hope on a higher frequency. It’s a refreshing blend. One of the most beautiful love songs the Cure have ever written, “There Is No If,” embodies this union of positive and negative energy.
Bloodflowers is equal parts rock and ballad — half sprint and half slumber. There are lazy drum-machine tracks and hard-hitting guitar solos. The production is top-notch from every vantage point, making excellent use of the band’s signature swirling guitar atmospherics and bottom-heavy bass response. Smith’s forlorn, honest vocals are a perfect match with the dark soundtrack, and the whole package provides a possible favorite for just about anyone who appreciates beauty and emotion with their rock ‘n’ roll.
Now that the Cure has “nothing left to burn,” this album is a reminder that no good thing can remain forever, and that we ought not to take them for granted while we have them around. Make it a point to see their swansong tour of the U.S. in the middle part of this year. You probably won’t get another chance.
Written by Steve Tudor.