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For bands like the Cure, that have been able to stick it out for 30 years of recording and touring, one must ask: “Is there anything left for these old codgers to say that’s musically refreshing?”Â No one really does the pain of love lost like Robert Smith, and 20 years ago, when I was in college, his songs certainly struck a chord with me because, you know, college is full of love lost/love found moments, and songs like “Just Like Heaven” or “Six Different Ways” strike just the right note.Â But does the Cure’s new music appeal to the same sense of desperation it did 20 years ago? If I were playing with my Magic 8 Ball while asking that question, it would say:Â “Signs Point to Yes.”
4:13 Dream is not quite the masterful pop of Head on the Door, or the dense atmospherics of Disintegration, but at times it comes close to combining the two. The lead track, “Underneath the Stars,” has a long intro and a dreamy feel that reveals something novel for a Cure album:Â beefed-up drums and a raw-sounding guitar.Â Smith’s vocals are delayed and echoed to create an ethereal quality to match the lyrics — which center on intertwined lovers lost in passion under a canopy of stars.Â Unfortunately, the effect is overdone, and what could have been a passionate song of the oneness of love comes off as kind of creepy.
Fortunately, Smith’s love affair with studio tricks is tempered on the pure pop sound of “The Only One.”Â But lyrically, the song definitely ventures into racy territory: Oh I love I love oh I love what you do to my skin/When you slip me on and slide me in …Oh I love I love oh Iove what you do to my bones/When you slide me off and slip me home … It’s the crush, oh yeah! If you’re not really paying attention to that fact that Smith is talking about a variety of sexual acts, you might just be nodding your head and enjoying the pop goodness of the music.Â I don’t know about you, but for me, the thought of Smith gettin’ busy and writing lyrics about it is antithetical to the “I just want to hold you forever and love you” persona Smith has cultivated as a passionate, but ultimately, asexual being.
For the first half of the album, the songs on 4:13 Dream are quite good — except for the fact that many of them are so effects-laden that it becomes distracting. They take a few listens to hook you, but once they do, it’s like it’s 1989 all over again. Alas, the album starts to get bogged down with “The Hungry Ghost,” “Switch” and “The Perfect Boy.” Fortunately, “This. Here and Now. With You” and the surprisingly hard-rocking “It’s Over” (which closes the album) rescue the second half from being a complete dud.Â But it’s those tired-sounding songs that fill the bulk of the second half that make me wonder if the other 17 songs the Cure recorded for what was supposed to be a double album were any good.Â If these were the best songs culled from the past two years of recording, then we should thank Smith for having the good sense to spare us from hearing a great band flame out into irrelevancy.