Following the worldwide success of 1992’s Wish that was followed by a massively successful world tour, the Cure seems to be riding high proving they could stay relevant with the world of alternative music. During the European leg of the tour, longtime bassist Simon Gallup had to leave the group temporarily for health reasons as Shellyann Orphan bassist Roberto Soave took over for the remaining shows. After the tour, guitarist Porl Thompson left the group to become part of Robert Plant’s live band while drummer Boris Williams left in 1994 to pursue other ventures leaving singer/guitarist Robert Smith and guitarist Perry Bamonte to keep the band going.
The period between 1992 and 1996 would be the first of a four-year gap between albums for the band as Smith was also dealing with a lawsuit from former Cure member Lol Tolhurst over royalties and the band’s name. Smith eventually won his battle against Tolhurst while Gallup eventually returned to the fold after his recovery. With Smith asking former keyboardist Roger O’Donnell, from the Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Disintegration period, to rejoin the band, the band were also seeking new drummers during the recording as Jason Cooper eventually filled in the role for the band’s tenth studio release entitled Wild Mood Swings.
Produced by Robert Smith and Steve Lyon, Wild Mood Swings is an album where the Cure stray away from the dark sounds of Disintegration and Wish for a more guitar-heavy sound with lush keyboards and upbeat pop songs. With many of the lyrical elements that Smith provides to be a mixture of moods and themes, the album has the Cure taking on different sounds. Despite the risks to change their sound a bit and take on different ideas, the result would be the Cure’s weakest album of their career.
Opening the album is the mid-tempo, guitar-driven Want with its slow, pummeling beats from Jason Cooper with swirling guitars from Perry Bamonte and Robert Smith. With Roger O’Donnell’s shimmering keyboard melodies and Simon Gallup’s throbbing bass, Smith wails through the song that includes lyrics of desperation with some lush keyboard swirls. Club America is an upbeat track with heavy guitar wails, pummeling beats from Louis Pavlou, and Smith singing in a low vocal style to the song’s humorous style. Despite its performance, the production tends to do too much for the guitars but not enough for the bass and keyboards. This Is A Lie is a ballad led by lush string arrangements and washy acoustic guitars along with a soft percussions from Ronald Austin as Smith sings the song’s morose yet exotic lyrics.
The album’s first single The 13th is an upbeat, mariachi-style track with throbbing percussions, washy acoustic guitars, exotic piano melodies, and a swooning brass section. Featuring Smith’s whimsical vocal style to match the song’s esoteric yet abstract lyrics about a weird girl as it’s one of the band’s weirdest songs. Strange Attraction is an upbeat yet mid-tempo song with hypnotic dance rhythms, clanging keyboards, and twangy sitar melodies as it features lyrics about a strange relationship with a delightful Smith singing the song. Mint Car is another upbeat track with spurting guitar chimes, bopping rhythms from Gallup and drummer Mark Price plus Smith’s excited vocals. The song’s lyrics recall a happier tone to what Smith is singing though it later has a sense of darkness proving its complexity as one of the band’s most underrated singles.
Jupiter Crash is a throbbing, down-tempo track with washy guitars and slow, walloping beats with a somber keyboard. Smith sings to the song’s dreamy yet melancholic lyrics as it’s a good song despite the emphasis to be extremely atmospheric in the production. Round & Round & Round is an upbeat song with washy guitars, bopping rhythms, and Smith’s yelping vocals filled with somber though abstract lyrics. Gone! is a mid-tempo track with a thumping brass section, steady beats and O’Donnell’s melodic keyboard spurts as Smith sings strange, imagery-laden lyrics filled with dark humor as it’s another of the Cure’s underrated songs. Numb is another acoustic-driven ballad with washy guitars, down-tempo rhythms, and soft keyboards that all follow Smith as he sings the song’s despaired lyrics of a man losing himself.
Return is an upbeat track with bopping rhythms, flourishing keyboards, driving guitars, and wailing brass as Smith sings in a delighted tone to the song’s complex lyrics filled with happy and sad moments. Trap is an upbeat rocker with wailing guitars, low bass lines, and pummeling beats from Mark Price as Smith snarls through the song to its angry yet melancholic lyrics. Treasure is a ballad led by soothing strings, Price’s soft beats, Gallup’s somber bass, soft guitars, and O’Donnell’s lush keyboards. Smith sings quietly to the song’s lyrics filled with longing desperation. The album closer is the near eight-minute ballad Bare with its soothing acoustic guitar washes, wobbly bass lines, steady drum fills, and flourishing keyboards. Smith sings the song’s melancholic lyrics filled with themes of fragility that is accompanied by lush strings to help close the album.
Released on May 6, 1996, nearly four years after the release of Wish, the album received mixed to lukewarm reviews from fans and critics over the stylistic departure the band took. Though it would sell a million copies worldwide, it was considered a major disappointment following the sales for Wish four years earlier. Despite the tepid response to the album, the Cure still managed to remain a popular touring act as they played all over the world including South America for the first time to a great reaction.
Despite some good performances and a few great songs, Wild Mood Swings is a decent but extremely inconsistent album from the Cure. It’s a record that is hampered by a lack of a cohesive direction along with some bad production that often drowns out the bass and keyboards in favor of heavy guitars and drums. Among the many studio albums the Cure has released, this is their most lackluster as there’s not a lot of memorable material as some of it seems to be a rehash of things while the lyrics aren’t as engaging as some of the highlights in this record. In the end, Wild Mood Swings is a record that has some moments but definitely the weakest recording the Cure has made in their career.
The Cure Studio Albums: Three Imaginary Boys - Seventeen Seconds - Faith - Pornography - The Top - The Head on the Door - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me - Disintegration - Wish - Bloodflowers - The Cure - 4:13 Dream
Compilations: Staring at the Sea/Standing on a Beach - Mixed Up - Galore - Greatest Hits - Join the Dots
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