But it seems that with age, Smith and company have been even more meticulous in their musical output. Their last album came out 15 years ago, which feels like a lifetime of studio silence for a band that still regularly tours. But this year, maybe, hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll get to hear the band’s new album, which Smith describes as “the best thing we've done.”
Smith has spent the majority of the past handful of years writing and editing and fixing and obsessing over and re-editing The Cure’s long overdue Songs of a Lost World. Since 2019, the same year The Cure was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he has teased fans with an upcoming new album almost as much as he teases his hair. He again promised its release last year before the start of the band's three-month European tour. Instead, fans got a 30th anniversary deluxe edition of the band’s 1992 album Wish.
So, even with all of those fans anticipating the new album, Smith’s hesitation in releasing a new record is warranted. After all, the creator of Disintegration has a lot to live up to.
A longtime portrait of gloomy, lovelorn adolescence, The Cure’s music is considered some of the most important and influential across multiple styles. The English group debuted in 1979 with the album Three Imaginary Boys, which is a lesson in post-punk. Six years later they entered the mainstream with The Head on the Door, featuring the pop hooks of “In Between Days” and the breathy favorite “Close to Me.” Four years later came what most consider their magnum opus, the synth-heavy, thoughtful art rock album Disintegration.
All this music is timeless, with no clear indication that it was made decades ago. It still resonates with the group's hopelessly romantic, whimsically woeful middle-aged fans today.
And it’s simply impossible to pigeonhole The Cure's style or sound. From slow, sulky cries of heartbreak and misunderstanding to upbeat, dizzy pop tunes with declarations of happiness and romantic gestures, The Cure’s sound has zig-zagged over time.
Smith has, however, proclaimed to exhaustion that The Cure is not a goth rock band, despite its dark and moody imagery and repetitive misrepresentation from various media over the years. But it’s hard not to believe that his trademark silhouette of wild black hair frozen in Aqua Net and peaking above smudged black eyeliner, as well as the band’s 1982 goth-ish album Pornography, didn’t play at least a small role in the rise of goth subculture in the early 1980s.
"The album itself is a little bit more doom and gloom. It hasn’t got any of those songs [like on Disintegration] that lighten the mood at all.” – Robert Smith in an NME interview
The band's most recent tour, beginning last October and ending in December, offered two- to three-hour-long performances including a few new tracks from the upcoming album. It was the first time the songs were played live, and much of the new music includes an air of grief and sadness, as several of Smith's family members, including his parents and brother, recently died. Smith has stated that all of these events contributed to the darkness of the album
"The album itself is a little bit more doom and gloom," Smith told NME back in 2019. "It hasn’t got any of those songs [like on Disintegration] that lighten the mood at all.”
Some fans might consider The Cure perpetually synonymous with the new wave movement of the 1980s and assume they reached their creative peak with Disintegration. And while those albums from the band's past are held dear — as tends to happen with artists who become synonymous with an era — their new material isn't on as many radars. Smith's nit-picking may be a response to his reckoning of being a figure frozen in time, even to those who send his Spotify plays sky-high each month.
But while Smith does have a lot to live up to on this upcoming album, it's pretty unlikely he'll produce a flop. Many fans of The Cure have always related to the music's darkness, laid out so poetically. If Songs of a Lost World has no "Pictures of You" or "Friday I'm In Love," who cares?
We just ask this: Robert, please step away from the editing booth some time this year and let fans share in the doom and gloom that makes The Cure the introspective force it is.