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The Cure - Bloodflowers (2000)
Producer: Robert Smith, Paul Corkett
Out of This World
Watching Me Fall
Where the Birds Always Sing
The Last Day of Summer
There Is No If...
The Loudest Sound
Released in 2000, Bloodflowers is the eleventh album by British band The Cure. The Cure's 1996 album, Wild Mood Swings, was met with generally poor reception by both fans and critics alike, and was heavily criticised for being overlong, containing too much filler and injecting a bogus sense of merriment into many of the tracks. Kindly, Robert Smith crept back into his seemingly hollow shell of a life and later returned with the cheerless Bloodflowers.
One of my preferred albums by The Cure, Bloodflowers is the spiritual successor to their 1989 masterpiece, Disintegration (Robert Smith himself billing it as the third part of a trilogy, beginning with their 1982 album Pornography, continuing with 1989's Disintegration, and concluding here). Returning to such a tried and tested formula could only reap worthwhile results. As did Disintegration before it, the songs have extensive, beautiful introductions, which effortlessly capture the listener's attention, before progressively multiplying the layers of instrumentation, leaving you meditatively floating upon a sea of uninhibited depth.
Whereas Disintegration opted for waves upon waves of keyboards and shimmering guitars to achieve their superlative accumulative effect, Bloodflowers instead chooses to lean towards a more guitar-based offering. With the odd exception, Bloodflowers is a largely acoustic affair. The songs no longer ravage you with their fierce desperation and candid home truths; everything is a lot more gentle and judicious this time around. Surely, this can only be put down to Robert Smith approaching his fortieth birthday at time of writing and recording. And boy are middle-aged men bitter towards life.
The songs are no longer a razor-sharp retaliation and venting of fury towards life. Now, his verse is written in a brutally disparaging manner, with an unsympathetic eye towards life's affairs. Yes, you could say that Bloodflowers is an album for the sceptical older person, if not for everyone with a brooding sense of discontentment.
With an echelon of unyielding acoustic guitars, flattering piano and unexpectedly optimistic slide guitar, opener Out of This World lives up to the promises of its title. A sad realisation that good things are never meant to last, it gives us a taste for the sorrow to come. "When we look back at it all, as I know we will - you and me wide-eyed," sings Smith, "I wonder, will we really remember, how it feels to be this alive!" Smith sings the whole thing beautifully, his voice now a cushion of calm for your head to rest upon.
Nothing is going to divide opinion more than the eleven minute monster, Watching Me Fall, which is one of the album's heavier tracks. Very seldom do we find a song featuring the same levels of self-analytical criticism as we have here. The army of guitars and their unforgettable riffs make sure that you cherish the lengthy running time. Also, one must note what is unquestionably the greatest finale to any Cure song ever: "I'm watching me screeeeeeeeeaaam!!!!!" It is simply awesome, my friends.
Should we criticise those who long for something better? Robert Smith thinks so - cue Where the Birds Always Sing, featuring yet another guitar riff to be etched on your memory. "The world is neither fair nor unfair," explains Smith, "So one survives, the others die, and you always want a reason why." The tone of Smith's voice, although soft and refined, indicates frustration at his own unsatisfying answers, as he attempts to reason with both himself and another party, "The world is neither just not unjust, it's just us trying to feel that there's some sense in it!"
I absolutely adore The Loudest Sound, if only for the enchanting lyrics. At its heart is a tale of true love and the happiness it brings. The song illustrates the comforting nature of enjoying each other's company, so much so that words do not have to be said, you both just know how important you are to each other. In this case, the loudest sound Robert Smith describes is in fact silence. You know you have found true love when you can find solace in just holding one another and relishing the inexpressible sense of safety, security and tranquillity. Idyllic, in other words.
Bloodflower's other heavy rocker is 39, which finds us looking in on Smith as he approaches his fortieth birthday, hence the numerical figure where usually there'd be a title. No less enjoyable than Watching Me Fall, 39 swallows you up into its cutthroat cyclone of obstinate guitars, which are swiftly followed by a certain Mr Robert Smith consuming you with his aggrieved ululation, "The fire is almost out and there's nothing left to burn!" Oh yes there is, Mr Smith, you have plenty to burn yet!
The title-track closes the album. "'This world never stops', you said," quotes Smith, "'this wonder never leaves. The time will never come to say goodbye!'" Its poised pacing suits this sorrowful elegy to an endless love which didn't live up its promises and, well, died. Bloodflowers is a fine way to end the album.
For a Cure fan, Bloodflowers is a dream come true, and for everyone else it makes for a damn fine listen. The formula which made Disintegration such a success is back, and while Bloodflowers is no Disintegration, it's certainly the next best thing. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Read more reviews at www.danielkempreviews.co.uk
There was a time when the Cure could fill stadiums with their quirky love songs and existential angst, and every other passer by on Camden High Street would look like the band's tousle-haired, lipstick smudged singer Robert Smith. But the world of pop is a fickle and transient place, and by the '90s the Cure were pretty much dismissed as has-beens, releasing as they were countless compilations and live albums while they struggled to come up with a studio album. And when that studio album finally emerged it was widely criticised for being a disappointing retread of past glories. I think the critics were a little too harsh on 'Wild Mood Swings' - not because it was especially good, but because despite being littered with gems most of the Cure's albums were muddled affairs, lacking both direction and quality control. Only 'Pornography' and 'The Head on the Door' sound consistent and complete, and even they are flawed - 'Pornography's angst sounding immature and forced, and 'Head on the Door' sounding too much an artefact of its time. So it was only on a whim that I bought 'Bloodflowers' - I picked it up out of curiosity, expecting to put it down again. But the title of one song, 'The Last Day of Summer', seemed to strike a chord with the evening creeping across the pavement outside, and with the clinking of beer glasses from the adjacent bar, and I decided it was time for a re-acquaintance. I expected an indulgence in nostalgia, but what I heard was an album so astonishing that for months I listened to it with a frequency approaching obsession, and which 2 years later still takes my breath away. It creeps in ever so slowly, like a guest uncertain of its welcome, the wistful opening 'Out of this World' setting the tone for the rest of the album with its warm, intricate bass and drums. This is an exceptionally finely crafted set of songs, with a depth of texture w
hich, in its fleeting autumnal light, reveals new threads with every listen. The band sound tighter than ever, and there is a confidence to songs like 'Where the Birds Always Sing' that reveals both maturity and experience. Compare these songs to the trite 'Mint Car' released a few years previous, and its hard to believe its the same band. Sometimes the music is unmistakably the Cure, only better than anything they've done before. 'The Last Day of Summer', with Simon Gallup's trademark flange guitars and its multi-layered acoustic backdrop, sounds like the song they spent an entire album trying to write on 'Disintegration'. And 'Watching Me Fall', an 11 minute encounter with a Tokyo prostitute, screams from the same emotional pit as 'Pornography' yet hits the listener with a ferocity which makes most of that album sound tame in comparison. I'm tempted to describe this album as a distillation of the beauty of 'Disintegration', the intensity of 'Pornography', and the lyrical maturity of 'Wish', but that would be to deny the uniqueness of this album, not to mention its surprisingly contemporary sound. Take the gentle dance beat on 'The Loudest Sound', which brings a fresh breeze to the album, its guitar solo like a fledgling spreading its wings for the first time. Its gorgeous, its heartbreaking, and my life would be emptier without it. The dance beats continue, albeit with a searing increase in pace, in '39', where the drums come to the forefront, snarling triumphantly while a bitter, defeated Smith cries "I've run right out of thoughts, and I've run right out of words I used to feed the fire, but the fire is almost out" An ironic line, considering that Smith has emerged on this album as truly great lyricist, his words elevating an already superb album to the status of bona fide classic. His mood throughout is
resigned and reflective, his thoughts shifting from things that will never be... "You always want so much more than this - An endless sense of soul and an eternity of love A sweet mother down below and a just father above" to things that once were. The sense of loss, of things being prised from one's grasp by time's tyranny is at times so acute as to be painful, as in 'The Last Day of Summer', with its whisper in the wind: "All that I have, all that I hold - all that is wrong / All that I feel for, or trust in or love - all that is gone". Love and Death are central to this album, and Smith has never written about them so well. Compare the explicit morbidity of 'Pornography' ("Over and over we die one after the other"), with its equivalent here ("So some survive, and others die, and we always want the reason why / But the world is neither fair nor unfair / Its just our way of trying to make sense of it all") and its clear just how much his writing has matured. Death here is not a yawning chasm, but a daily companion, seen in the passing of the seasons, or in an unwelcome birthday. In 'There Is No If', the passage of time is in the faded symmetry of the lyric itself, like the face in the mirror that you no longer recognise: "Remember the first time I told you I loved you? It was raining hard and you never heard. You sneezed ! - and I had to say it over..." and its reflection... "Remember the last time I told you I love you? It was warm and safe in our perfect world. You yawned - and I had to say it over..." The rich textures of the rest of the album fall away to expose music as sparse and delicate as the words, with fractured guitars and a keyboard somewhere in the distance sounding like a train slipping on its rails. Devastating in its simplicity and in its sentiment, this is to my m
ind the greatest love song ever written, better even than John Cale's 'Close Watch'. The album ends with its title track which, sounding like it was unearthed from an era between 'Faith' and 'Pornography', is stylistically the most backward-looking song on the album, but nevertheless one of their most accomplished songs to date. It is an emotionally wrought finale with Smith, like a solitary figure from a Caspar David Friedrich painting, standing exposed to the elements, engaged in a silent dialogue with his distant lover, her optimism (" 'This dream never ends' you said / 'This feeling never goes - the time will never come to slip away...' ") matched by his pessimism (" 'This dream always ends' I said / 'This feeling always goes - the time always comes to slip away' "). The sense of hopelessness gathers momentum until eventually, with the drums rumbling like thunder on the horizon, and the guitars hissing like sea spray at his feet, Smith lets the awesome ocean flood into his heart: " 'This tide always turns' I said, 'This night always falls again - and these flowers will always die - always die! always die!...' " At which point the guitars are hurled into the raging waters, and Smith's words are sucked away by the wind, the singer letting out a final, agonized gasp. It is a desolate, theatrical end to an album that for the most part treats its universal themes with intimacy and understatement. Yet somehow it couldn't end with any other way - a helpless scream at the inescapable truth that the world is neither fair nor unfair - just terrifyingly indifferent.
I TRULY wanted to like this record. After all, the signs were good that Fat Boy Smith and his bunch of loonies were venturing back into the wasteland they wallowed in at their peak and did their best material in; they were taking their time with everything to make sure not one note was blemished, etc... They spent four friggin' years making this record, and being a HUGE Cure fan, I was waiting for something Smith was describing as a combination of the lush synthesizer arrangements of 'Disintegration' with the hopeless fury of 'Pornography'. What I got was something that sounded( at-best) like B-sides from 'Wish'( and even those were better than this) and 'It USED to Be Me'- the best song from 'Mood Swings' era. The arrangements are laced with acoustic guitar and that trademark watery-post-nocturnal Goth Guitar the band is notorious for. It starts out promising, with a pleasant but somehow lackluster 'Out of this World', and then into the awesome '(Watching Me) Fall', which is the high-light of this long-winded, tiresome tragedy. On past Cure records, you feel, you sense the futile wonderland of Smith's mind- that fairy-tale place we all go, where it hurts to grow up and we want to live in our heads forever with music and literature. On 'Bloodflowers' we get rantings about how "the fire is almost out..."(39), and sadly this seems to be the case. Die-hard Cureheads will find it interesting at best. There are no 'Twilight Garden'( the majestic B-side to the 'High' single from Wish) or 'Three Imaginary Boys', but the two standout tracks are 'Last Day of Summer'- which is something which could have fit on 'disintegration' like a new velvet glove; and the pummelling 'Watching Me Fall', which Smith was quoted in the American magazine Circus after finishing writing it as "a commentary on my life over the past 20 years in the Cure." Othe
r sappy songs like 'Maybe Someday' fall flat of satiating the Cure fix we've had over the past five years awaiting this farce. 'Bloodflowers' starts off promising, but quickly deteriorates with a desperate Smith insisting "these flowers will never die..." Oh why won't they?! SUB-PAR rantings from a man who should have quit after 'Wish'.
After his music trajectory, Robert Smith, returns with a new record that show us the real The Cure essence. If we thought in the dissease of this magnific band we found the "Bloodflowers" surprise. Pop, rock, gothic or whatever, Smith has known to use different styles. Remember "let´s go to bed", an excellent song with pop strokes, or "close to me" that gots the hits music tops. Then, the darkness is an impotant part of this band, songs like "three", "one hundred years" or "charlotte sometimes" return us to their sinistrous epochas, with acid words but a lot of quality. ¡Here he is again! this introverted genius with and incomparable musical production, Robert Smith, continue with his complete music experience. Recomended songs: "bloodflowers", "39", "maybe someday" and "watching me fall". The "Bloodflowers" album is only for Cure fanatics.
The good news is, the Cure has left the happy stuff behind and is back writing the sad, moody songs which they do best. The bad news is that this is a very weak collection of tracks. Although some hark back to the Disintegration/Wish era, these songs would have been B sides if released back then. Even Robert Smith seems to be admitting that "the fire is almost out". The songs are overwrought and lack any kind of hooks. Only hardcore Cure fans (like myself) will find this listenable. Anyone else will be bored to tears. These nine songs are the best they could come up with in five years?
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Out Of This World
2 Watching Me Fall
3 Where The Birds Always Sing
4 Maybe Someday
5 The Last Day Of Summer
6 There Is No If
7 The Loudest Sound