[I honestly don't know why it took so long to write this review. Now go listen to more Cure!]
Eight years after they were supposed to break up with swan song Bloodflowers, The Cure returns with their 13th full-length, 4:13 Dream. And while the gloomy yet loving four-piece has been cranking out albums for over 30 years now, there’s little for fans to hate about their latest. The group’s previous, self-titled album, from 2004, suffered from being too cliché, too stereotypically like a general Cure album. 4:13 Dream avoids this pitfall by trying really hard to sound like a specific Cure album, in this case 1992’s Wish. Right down to the album artwork, 4:13 Dream seems concocted to mimic the airy arrangements of “Open” and “From the Edge of the
The album breaks from Wish by trying to include more single-worthy numbers, like “The Perfect Boy” and “The Only One.” The latter is a giddy, romantic tune that can perhaps best be described as this album’s version of “Friday, I’m in Love.” But while these songs are certainly catchy, they lack the thrill of surprise. As part of 4:13 Dream’s marketing, The Cure issued four singles on the 13th of each month leading up to the album’s debut. This idea was botched when Geffen Records decided to delay the album’s release, but the fact remains that about a third of the album has been legally available for months. “The Only One” is a great song, but it’s not exactly unique to the album. This is further complicated by the album’s soggy middle. “Freakshow” never finds a groove. Outside of the opening line, nothing sticks. “The Real Snow White” feels like such an obvious pander to the Hot Topic set, right down to the stupid, mall goth title.
Still, though, The Cure has never released a truly bad album, and 4:13 Dream is no exception. The moody aura that hangs over songs like “The Reasons Why” or “This. Here and Now. With You” will romance listeners just as well as anything on Disintegration. The closing double freakout of “The Scream” and “It’s Over” shows that the band still knows how to get truly dark. In fact, frontman Robert Smith’s vocals on “The Scream” might be his best on the whole album, if only for the howl the song leads him to unleash halfway through. Everything builds and builds into this ridiculously rocking, somewhat psychedelic explosion.
Another highlight worth mentioning is “The Hungry Ghost,” an amicable mid-tempo tune. For a band so wrapped up in the concept of yearning, there’s something soothing and surprising in lines like “All the things we never know we need / Looks like we get them in the end.” The song talks about addiction to materialism, and buried somewhere in lines about desperately staying within the spotlight’s boundaries, Smith seems to find a balance between material possessions and happiness. It’s not the most uplifting statement he could make, sure, but it seems practical, which is perhaps the best word for describing 4:13 Dream as a whole. Well, that and “good.”