The Cure and Ross Robinson - one-time producer of Slipknot and Korn - it all seems somehow inevitable. Given that Robinson's charges have perfected teen angst to such a fine point that it makes the self-obsessed musings of teenagers of earlier generations pale in comparison, there is a justice to Robinson finally getting behind the mixing desk to produce The Cure. Since the release of their first album some twenty-five years ago, The Cure have never looked anything less than outsiders, thereby well matched to their having taken the title of their first single, Killing An Arab, from Albert Camus' existential text, The Outsider.
Robinson, who once persuaded Slipknot to attend church to let them see what it was they were supposed to be rebelling against, has made his name by mixing the bleak alienation that was once The Cure's trademark - think Seventeen Seconds, Faith and Pornography - with an arena-friendly hard rock/rap mix that would sit well with the kids of Hoboken where A Forest and The Hanging Garden never did.
It's odd, therefore, to hear The Cure's brittle rock sound underpin Smiths half-wail/half-yelp with the hard rhythms - bass and drums - of Robinson's nu-metal. Both sound as though they have lost something in the collaboration - The Cure, strangely for having Robinson behind the desk, sound weaker than they have done in years whilst you could understand Robinson fighting against the lack of a pair of rock guitars. But worse is that The Cure don't quite seem to even have the songs to make this much of an album.
Without looking back at their past too much, it's doubtful that The Cure will ever top Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me or Close To You from their pop years or Pornography from their gothic rock period but this eponymous album lacks anything to bring the thirteen songs to a whole the way those earlier albums did. Instead, there's the same bleak look from the bedsit that infected Disintegration but the sound of The Cure is limp in comparison and is less coherent that the mess of pop of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. The album is still rescued by songs like Before Three, Truth Goodness And Beauty, Anniversary and Taking Off, all of which are the sort of odd little love song that Smith can write when he's feeling contented but both these songs and the album as a whole are bookended by the likes of Lost and the epic The Promise, which tend to sink into their own misery without any good reason for feeling bad. Although Pornography is a more chilling listen, it's never as thoroughly miserable as The Promise, which tails out with, "You promised me...And I waited...", repeated over the last three or four minutes, which, when combined with the rapid recording and release of The Cure - Spring to Summer '04 - gives the impression that Smith simply looked through his notebook and pulled out the first thirteen pages of lyrics that came to hand.
Whilst this will be a comfortable listen for fans of the band, it's almost been written for them alone and without any view outside their existing fanbase. By the end of the album, there's never the feeling that The Cure really matter anymore, which isn't at all surprising - almost all bands reach their limit sometime - but that a band who had once been capable of spooked gothic rock and blissful pop should knock out an album so quickly and carelessly as this.
Note that this album can be bought with a DVD of The Making Of The Cure as an extra, which is simply a short feature showing The Cure rehearsing for and recording this album soundtracked by samples of the songs that eventually made it.