No one revels in the sumptuous pleasures of melancholy like Robert Smith, the Cure's leading mopemeister. In Smith's world, it is always raining, comfort and happiness are fleeting, love is epic and torturous. On Bloodflowers, the band's 11th studio album, his lyrical prowess continues to astound. Considering the subject matter, Smith's always managed to steer clear of the clichéd, bad-high-school-poetry trap, and on Bloodflowers, the imagery is some of his most vivid and stabbing. On "The Loudest Sound," a story about a couple who are, of course, growing apart, he sings of their tension: "She dreams him as a boy / And he loves her as a girl / And side by side in the silence without a single word / It's the loudest sound I ever heard." The music grows out of the same dichromatic marriage of love's eternal hope and heartbreak's inevitable bleakness. Layers of the Cure's signature ethereal, buoyant guitar licks are paced at the momentum of a lava lamp, while melodies lurk only in an understated synth or distorted guitar. None of the songs scream "radio hit" like Wish's "Friday I'm in Love" anomaly; and although Bloodflowers is less abstract, comparisons to Disintegration are easily drawn. If this really threatens to be the last Cure album--no, really, the real end--it's a vision of loneliness and loveliness, a low note rarely surpassed in beauty and breadth.
- Beth Massa