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The Cure 'Bloodflowers' (Fiction)

Is this the last ever Cure album? Will Robert now toddle off into a Sussex seaside sunset armed with a solo album and an internet handbook, free at last from the corporate demands of the ever amalgamating giant record companies with only his website and a global online audience to worry about? And if so, is 'Bloodflowers' a fitting testament to what at the end of the day is a great band with great songs and their own unmistakable sound? All great bands must have that.

'Out Of This World' is a delicate opener, drum brushes, acoustic guitar, melodic, wistful and, yes nostalgic, "I wonder when we look back on all of this..." with the requisite delicate hint of menace spinning away on an echo machine in the background. And just as you begin to fear for Robert's soul and the band's future, "We always have to go back to real lives, but real lives are the reason why we wanted another life", keyboard player Roger O'Donnell throws in the sort of comedy piano solo that Madness in their prime would have been proud of.

At just over eleven minutes long, 'Watching Me Fall' probably won't make the Radio One A list, but it certainly backs up Robert's claim that 'Bloodflowers should be seen as part of a trilogy that started with 'Pornography' and continued on through 'Disintegration'. And my God what a noise - you can play air guitar to it too.

'Where The Birds Always Sing' could be a critique of the record industry these past twenty years. A tale of the battle between survival and tragic death, of justice and injustice, of chart topping boy bands and niche rock bands who have to ask permission to put their own music on their own website homepage. Probably. And if 'Maybe Someday''s round riff borders worryingly on Levellers territory early doors, it gives Robert the chance to complain about his disappointment with the here and now, to reveal "too scared to jump if I leave it too long" and to revisit the themes of finality and escape.

'The Last Day Of Summer' boasts a beautifully piano-driven instrumental intro which Robert eventually dresses with another lyrical look backward over his shoulder. 'There Is No If…' is a surprise - a gorgeous, funny, love song that Robbie Williams would make a million out of. Robert's lover sneezes, coughs and yawns all over his declarations which end with what amounts to a suicide pact - just in case you were getting worried. Just to be awkward, 'The Loudest Sound' sneaks up gently, all melodic guitar figures and squelching bass boom.

But enough of the soft stuff, back to the career metaphor of '39'. "The fire's out and there's nothing left to burn… I've run out of words" sings Robert as the band finally breaks loose and rocks out across the tale, presumably, of a man - Robert Smith - approaching 40, the mid point of his life. He has no great insight for us, no great truth, just a declaration of running on empty. He's 40 now, of course, but the day he wrote '39' must have been as particularly bad one. It certainly sounds like a 'goodbye'.

If it was, then the closing 'Bloodflowers' itself is a more fitting finale - at least at the outset. Defiant, optimistic, forward looking; "this wave will never break…these flowers will never fade". Of course Robert attributes this world view to somebody else, before contradicting every single positive point he's just sung, this time as himself; "the time always comes to slip away…these flowers will always die." Plain speaking or another great Smith/Cure hoax? With a world tour and the festival season stretching ahead of the Cure, we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime 'Bloodflowers' stands as a glorious, if contradcitory, body of work. It won't win new converts but lapsed Cure fans will find it a thrilling and rewarding hour. Just have those hankies ready by the end.

- Andy Strickland


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