When I was a teenager (in the late eighties I should point out) many of the girls I was interested in knowing better were into The Cure, so for a couple of years there was a habit of going to someone’s place, turning out the lights and listening to Disintegration or Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. At the time The Cure didn’t work for me, I was pursuing a something more exterior (I had it to offer), something more obvious, and not so interested in the internalised depressive reflections of urbanised shadow freaks. They spoke from somewhere a long way from where I was at, and at that time I was very keen on blokes shouting over guitars, usually about something really obvious. As time went on, and the limits of obvious exteriority became clear to me, I grew fond of The Cure.
Mostly it was the early albums that I liked, Seventeen Seconds and Pornography. Moody, obtuse and chock full of appealing bass riffs. Quite gothic really, as befits a young man ill at ease stepping out into the world having been unsuccessful with those young women who preferred a slightly poppier Cure. I lived with my Nanna for some time and The Cure was atmospheric enough to play after she’d gone to bed, that is to say The Cure were still powerful when played quietly and so my youthful late evenings spent reading the usual suspects (Camus, Kafka, Sartre, et al.) were often accompanied by The Cure. Strangely I also played Mike Oldfield’s Crises during this time.
Then at some point when they seemed a bit less useful, too many jokes, a bit too MTV. There were too many spiders and shit. So I stopped listening. They also slowed down and there were less new albums, which I suppose reflects their success and the comforts that brought. Occasionally I would play Standing on a Beach, Staring at the Sea in the car and I still found lots to admire but I just wasn’t into them anymore. The Cure had become music to sing a long with while doing the washing up (Monday, you can hold your head/Tuesday, Wednesday stay in bed/or Thursday – watch the walls instead/it’s Friday, I’m in love!) or cleaning the bathrooms.
It has become, during the last decade or so, fashionable to mock The Cure as being caricatures of themselves, even when they were just being The Cure. I bought into this to some extent and responded with a shrug to the entreaties of Cure fanatics to acknowledge Robert Smith’s genius. Over the last year or so, however, I’ve found myself playing Bloodflowers, especially at work where quiet headphone friendly tunes mean I can still hear the phone ring and the requests of my colleagues.
Bloodflowers doesn’t have a good reputation, mainly it’s said that it’s a tame imitation of Disintegration or worse, just boring, self conscious, or wanky. It’s my experience that even Cure fans don’t like Bloodflowers. But I do. It’s languorous, thoughtful and unhurried. It sounds like the work of people who know what they’re doing. I wonder if, perhaps, what isn’t being objected to is that on Bloodflowers The Cure sound professional and for those who seek transcendental authenticity professionalism is going to be too knowing, too solid.
Nothing on Bloodflowers is seeking, there is no quest, there are just four or five men in a room making something. There’s no mission for renewal, no lust for projection, no great shakes. There are no grandiose statements about self, or other, or anything very much. They just make space and fill it with stuff. For the most part it sounds not unlike all the other Cure albums: slightly world weary tempos; feedback and distant synths; cavernous arrangements and drums that clunk. The tracks all bleed into one another and there are no hinges on which they swing. Bloodflowers wafts in, and wafts out again.
The track that has won me over is ‘Last Day of Summer.’ It’s got a gorgeous lush intro of acoustic guitars accompanied by synths and the characteristic twanged riff, it sounds like a classic Cure track except that it doesn’t really wallow in itself. It doesn’t find the thing and draw it clean. Quite the opposite, it doesn’t find the thing at all. It’s looking but not fussed. ‘The Last Day of Summer’ is a waiting song.
The song waits for something to happen, it waits for something to not happen, it can’t see it, can’t find it, whatever it is, no bother. But the song remains, there is a song even when “nothing is new, nothing I think or believe in or say”, and even in those muddy circumstances we go on. ‘Last Day of Summer’ is a hymn to choice-less continuity and it moves me more than the petty emotionalism that so impressed the girls in high school. We are here, we are alive, it says, even on that chilly last day of summer.