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2/28/2000  Chicago Tribune
One Last Time - Maybe 'Bloodflowers' Seems To Mark The End Of The Cure's Long Run

"One last time before the end."

"The fire is almost out and there's nothing left to burn."

"The time always comes to say goodbye."

The Cure's Robert Smith doesn't disguise his intentions on the band's latest album, "Bloodflowers" (Elektra/Fiction). This is it. So long, farewell, kiss off. The end of the Cure. Parting - like everything else in the British band's 20-year history is cloaked in the kind of gothic drama that has made the quintet one of the biggest cult bands in the world. Love or loathe them, Smith and company sound like no one else. Though a succession of pop singles made the band stars in America, it's Smith's funereal guitar symphonies that are most beloved by fans, and in that respect "Bloodflowers" is definitive Cure: If it's a last gasp, it's a mighty one, punctuated by the going-down-in-flames roar of "Watching Me Fall" and "39," written on one of the 40-year-old Smith's recent birthdays.

Yet, not all is lost, it appears. On the eve of a Cure tour, which brought the band Vic on Friday, Smith didn't sound ready to entomb his band just yet.

The rest of the band must have been bummed out in the studio by all these songs talking about pulling the plug.

The album was made with the sense that it would be a full stop. And the other guys were going, "Oh my God." The fact is that I'm doing something on my own next, a solo album, so there is a sense that this might be the last time we do it. "Bloodflowers" was written during a period when I was really disenchanted with the group and had no intention of carrying on. But the process of making it changed my mind. The fact we've ended up with something I'm really proud of makes me feel like I would like to do it again.

Are you making a solo album because you feel limited by the Cure?

What I'm going to do on my own might not work - it will be a style of music that I've never recorded before. I'm still not sure what it will sound like, but I'm intending not to sing on it. I don't want to trade in on the name of the band, then put out an album that 90 percent of the band's fans might really hate. But I want to work with outside people, which is a difficult thing to do in the Cure, who I view as a group of friends as much as musicians.

You've said "Bloodflowers" was inspired by two of the bleakest Cure records, "Pornography" (1982) and "Disintegration" (1989). Why those two?

I wanted to alert Cure fans that this album thematically was of a certain mood, that it wasn't like "Wild Mood Swings" or "Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me," an eclectic mix of styles. I used "Pornography" and "Disintegration" as touchstones in the studio. I played them a couple of times during the recording process to find what is that intangible thing that makes those the best two Cure albums for me. I didn't want to remake them, but there is a certain strategy I used on both of them that I went back to. In the last 10 years, the Cure recordings have become more democratic, and everyone had an equal say creatively in the studio. With this album, I went back to being the despot. Like the two earlier albums, I knew what I wanted from the start and didn't listen to or care what anyone else had to say.

Yet "Bloodflowers" does have a more hopeful, accepting side to it.

I hope there is an acceptance of the passing of time and how things change that doesn't exist on those previous two albums. "Pornography" is like a rant of screaming despair, and "Disintegration" has a hopelessness about it - it's a really arty, cold record. I think "Bloodflowers" is a warmer, more human record. It's closer to how I feel at the moment.

It suggests to me that the other band members are the ones pushing for the pop stuff, whereas you prefer the band's darker, more introspective side.

The Cure's roots are in pop. The early songs were inspired by the Beatles and I was going to say "Satan" (laughs) - but let's just say the dark side of life. The unusual thing is that we've been able to retain both extremes of the band. We've managed to do "Friday I'm in Love" alongside the dark stuff, and without the pop side we wouldn't be nearly as good a band. At the moment I don't want to do those songs, and I don't feel like wearing a brightly colored suit on a video set. I don't feel any emotional connection to that side of the Cure and I never have, but it's still important to us because it's made us well-known. I've always explained it to myself that it draws people in who otherwise would completely dismiss what we do. If they come to the Cure through the pop side, and then perceive the darker stuff, that gives me satisfaction.

If it is the end of the Cure, what do you think the band's legacy will be?

Our influence isn't so much in how other bands sound, because I think it is difficult to sound like us. I think it's more how we've done things. Younger bands tell us they respect us for the way we've been able to do things on our own terms. I think we're proof that a band doesn't have to conform to get somewhere.

- Greg Kot


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