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2/15/2000  All Music Guide

The Cure edged into new territory with 1996's Wild Mood Swings, a successful record that nevertheless drew scorn from certain quarters because it eschewed goth rock for pop, both pure and twisted. Perhaps it was because the record followed the sunnier Wish, and some listeners wanted nothing more than a replication of the majestic gloom of 1989's Disintegration -- something neither Wish nor its successor offered. For 2000's Bloodflowers, the sequel to Wild Mood Swings, Robert Smith decided to give the people what they wanted: a classic Cure album, billed by the band as the third part of a trilogy begun with 1982's Pornography and continued with Disintegration. That critical shorthand (or publicist's calling card, depending on your point of view) turns out to be more or less true, since Bloodflowers boasts all of the Cure's signatures: stately tempos, languid melodies, spacious arrangements, cavernous echoes, morose lyrics, keening vocals, long running times. If that's all you're looking for, Bloodflowers delivers in spades. If you want something transcendent, you're out of luck, since the album falls short of the mark, largely because it sounds too self-conscious. Throughout the album, as one song segues into the next, it feels like Smith is striving to make a classic Cure record, making sure that all the sounds are in place before he constructs the actual song. That makes for a good listening experience, especially for fans of Disintegration, but it never catches hold the way that record did, for two simple reasons: There isn't enough variation between the songs for them to distinguish themselves, nor are there are enough sonic details to give individual tracks character. While Disintegration had goth monoliths like "Fascination Street," it also had pristine pop gems like "Love Song" and elegant neo-psychedelia like "Lullaby." With a couple of exceptions (the poppier "Maybe Someday" and the concise, spare "There Is No If..."), the songs on Bloodflowers feel like cousins of "Pictures of You." Not a bad thing, but they lack the haunting undercurrent of melancholy that made that song such a masterpiece. Here, everything is kept on the surface. Fans looking for more of the same may find that acceptable, since the album is certainly accomplished, well made, and even enjoyable. However, it's a bit of a hollow achievement, since it never seems like Smith is pushing himself or the band. Instead, it seems like he's trying to make a Cure album -- and he's never done that before. Since nobody else can come close to capturing the Cure's graceful gloom, it satisfies, but it's hard to shake the suspicion that Bloodflowers could have been something grand if he had shaken up the formula slightly.

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine


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