Playing God
The Cure: Wild Mood Swings

robert Smith’s usual reasoning for the rather lukewarm reaction to Wild Mood Swings is something along the lines of the album being “a bit too long”. Thanks to my temporary promotion to the position of ‘god’ (it’s dreadful, you should see the paperwork) I can actually take steps to address this. Afterwards, if I have a spare moment, I might see if I can look into this global poverty malarkey. Reorganising Cure records has to take priority though, obviously.

I’m a man who stupidly trusts Mr Smith at his word, so I’ll bow to his judgement and strike a few tracks off. Possibly with lightning bolts, or a more exciting modern equivalent; something like divine downsizing. Yeah, I was lying about it being exciting. Anyway, I think even more drastic action is needed. Which is handy, because otherwise this feature could be quite dull.

Rather helpfully, there is an absolute embarrassment of musical riches to be found amongst the six b-sides of the era. So, much like a kindly old bearded football manager with added spiritual infallibility, I’ll be switching some of these fresh-faced substitutes for the creakier veteran tunes who’ve forgotten how to run properly.

My aim; a terrifying Stalinist purge followed by a few hand-picked alternatives. A valiant effort to raise the overall quality (to my ears, at least) and make the whole affair a little more fluid.

Out go: “Club America” (too Bowie), “This Is A Lie” (too stringy), “Strange Attraction” (too unattractive), “Mint Car” (too Friday), “Round & Round & Round” (too throwaway), “Return” (too confusing), “Trap” (too clichéd) and “Bare” (too interchangeable ... you’ll see).

In come: “A Pink Dream”, “Adonais”, “Ocean” and “It Used To Be Me”.

The Cover
Evil, split-faced clown guy has got to go. An album that people are afraid to pick up simply will not do. I’m quite sure the disturbingly serrated edges that adorn his burst face of circus delight are suitably symbolic of fragmented emotions, but I’m not prepared to deal with a metaphor whose single visible eye follows me around the room. Chuckles is hereby ditched, in favour of the “Strange Attraction” cover stars; a monkey riding a horse. With a loving dash of mutual animal respect and a sinister underlying hint of a twisted interspecies relationship, I feel it’s the only reasonable choice for the cover.

Ok, fine. I just wanted rid of that bloody clown.

1. Want
Cure openers are traditionally solid and I have no problems whatsoever with leaving this in place. A wonderfully slow-building intro, adding layer upon layer for roughly five hours until it arrives somewhere near a song with a blur of agitated guitars and a couple of decent Robert howls. We’ve got unfetted desire, we’ve got regret, we’ve got the realisation that craving can never truly be satisfied. Quite Buddhist. Very Cure.

2. The 13th
Which leads nicely into a pseudo-latin number with a not-especially-hidden message about giving in to your lust. Or possibly about killer bees, I dunno. Yeah, I thought it was pretty stupid when I first heard it too. Maybe it is, a bit. Is that such a bad thing? I say, no! Bring on more trumpet action! It feels goooood!

3. A Pink Dream
Got a little too excited with my godly powers there, sorry. Now I have a world full of bee-obsessed trumpeters on my hands. I’ll deal with it. Meanwhile, here’s our first b-side appearance of the evening. A nostalgic, yet upbeat tale of casual holiday sex, which somehow manages to come across as quite romantic. I instinctively link it to “The 13th”, perhaps as some kind of further expansion on the encounter in that song. Even if it’s not, the two clearly share common themes and deserve their sweatily close positioning. ‘Sucks my breath away’ indeed.

4. Adonais
I was toying with either including this or “Waiting”, but went with the funky double-triple-quadruple-tracked vocals that seem to pulse and shimmer like washing in a low breeze. Is Robert getting a bit religious here? A brisk flick through the dictionary also reveals the title to be a ‘Lord’ reference. It all seems rather afterlife-tastic to me. Presumably the mood would be ‘hope’, then.

5. Jupiter Crash
Bumped up the track listing by the compacting processes, it’s still a slightly clumsy astrological-events-as-sex metaphor. Bonus points for sneaking in a ‘they’re both over too quickly’ joke though. Plus it has sea sounds. Everyone loves sea sounds. A handy introduction to our third promoted b-side ...

6. Ocean
Chock-full of luscious sounds that chime and melt and weave in equal proportions, providing a quilted base for soft lyrical ponderings on the nature of knowledge. Quite how this was missed off the final album in the first place is a perplexing mystery. Not quite as perplexing as that stuff about how Egyptian Pyramids spookily line up with various features of the night sky, but comfortably approaching that level of befuddlement.

7. Gone!
You’ll probably be waiting me to defend this one then. Well, I like the um-pa-pa horn action and rinky-dink keyboards. I also think it serves as an interesting, reversed-perspective version of “Want”; rather than resigning yourself to the inevitable march of time and a crushing sense of nonfulfillment, why not get out there and enjoy a few things whilst you still can? The same basic situation, merely viewed from a different angle. Since I dig that kind of thing, “Gone!” stays.

8. Numb
I also dig turgid tales of hopeless drug addiction featuring impressively bizarre violining action.

9. Treasure
Hands down the best track of this Cure-era (Curera? oh god no, that looks like inept corporate phraseology). That is, according to me. Just now. Love, loss and ... more love. String sections are frightfully cunning in their ability to get the old emotions going, aren’t they? Contrived it may be, but it works every time. And when you’ve got the gentlest touch of piano floating in over lines like “For it’s better to forget / Than to remember me and cry”, well you’ve got yourself some classic Cure my friends! It’s not that I even agree with that sentiment, what touches me is the *idea* that someone may genuinely express it ... and mean it.

10. It Used To Be Me
I really didn’t want to axe “Bare”, but I couldn’t see a place for it if I was also including this. The two songs share a semi-accoustic feel that could breed over-familiarity, and the length of both pieces combined would undoubtedly bloat the record. Ask me again tomorrow and I might switch them back again, but as of this moment I’m taking the identity crisis number over (yet another) relationship collapse epic. Either one provides a fine closer, rounding off our newly-compressed swings of mood at ten tracks and around forty minutes. Lovely.

But does it work for anyone but me? I crave validation!

By: Peter Parrish
Published on: 2004-11-09
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