The Cure (Geffen)
An eponymous album title is a big statement for a band low on form in its third decade. It creates the expectation that this is the definitive Cure album, that Robert Smith and the lads still have the rare gift of cracking the charts while at the same time forcing a wiggle out of the surly hips of gothic kids.
The 13 tracks here touch on all the Cure trademarks. Smith's singing is more of an adolescent squawk than ever. Hollow bass lines and gloomy guitars swirl over cute tempos. But the hooks are missing. The best Cure songs - The Love Cats, Close to Me or Friday I'm in Love - sound simple but are really held together by great riffs and playing. Fresh out of the retirement he announced after 2000's Bloodflowers, Smith seems to lack the confidence to allow these new tunes to breathe like the oldies. He and producer Ross Robinson - who worked the dials for Korn and Limp Bizkit - paint over everything that might be seen as a flaw.
The lyrics are just as overdone. Sticking largely to love and war, Smith takes every chance to raise the pitch to obsession. On Before Three, he can't contain himself: 'Whispering dreams, so f***** and high/ It's hard to hold this night inside.'
The Cure is as even as any of the band's 14 albums. But consistency was never their calling card. We bought the earlier releases knowing that each would deliver two or three great songs. While a few tracks in the second half of this effort come close to their best, none deserves a spot on the iPod's Cure mix. Fans might like to buy early, though - for the 20-minute DVD of the band in the studio.