February 2000 – Circulo (Mexico)
When I entered high school, I stole a cassette of new wave music from one of my older brothers, which contained a collection of songs by the newest artists in underground at that time. Amongst the songs of Plastic Bertrand, Billy Idol, Adam & the Ants and other post punk dressy guys, there was a song that particularly moved me, raised my punk hair and made me dance with the cheer like I once had: the chorus repeated every now and then “Booooooooys Dooooooooooooon’t Cryyyyyyyy”.
I couldn’t ask my brother – apart from the fact that he had no idea, he’d answer me with a slap – and I stayed many years without knowing who was the author of my favourite song in the whole cassette. Time went by, truth came to light when I found out it was The Cure, the dark gothic attitude was already the definitive alternative to the pop chain, to the heavy metal reel and to the Pink Floyd-Doorsish (and alikes) psychosis that went on in my school. The semblance – in this phase it was elemental – changed into permanent mourning, panda/freshdead face and hair shaped like a wet magpie. Thus the initiates and followers united and started a sort of family that shared their findings related to the obsession of the moment. Through The Cure we discovered Siouxsie & the Banshees, Bauhaus, Ultravox, Christian Death, Alien Sex Friend, The Jesus & Mary Chain and so many others… Soon came Sonic Youth, Jane’s Addiction, Pixies, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, Front 242, grunge and everything else.
The Cure weakened; their singer, Robert Smith, was an accommodated chubby guy – not the generation icon anymore – and people forgot.
After all the adventures, illusions and legends built with, by and around Smith’s image, after his crumbling in the washboard of time, after six years without getting into studio or appearing on magazine covers, how will it feel to interview Robert Smith about Bloodflowers, his newest record?
Hello, where are you now?
I just got home…. mmmm, in the outskirts of London.
I listened to a bit of your new material and it’s a great surprise to hear this kind of return to your “roots”. What do you say?
Yes, it’s a sort of revision of what I consider the classic Cure sound, obviously resulting from the perspective the present gives me.
After working so deeply in such a dynamic and electronic sound, how did this change happen?
I believe it has to do mostly with turning fourty. I’ve always written music according to my mood and I never know what style I’ll use in the next song. I believe that now I was in a state similar to when we did Disintegration; this record sounds similar.
What’s the group’s lineup now?
The same from five years ago…
did you do in the recording studio?
Very well, beginning because now, instead of what I just said, I got into studio with a very clear idea of what I wanted. In the previous two records it was a collective work, they are “group records”, and this one is mostly my inspiration, like in the time of Disintegration.
was the hardest part in this process?
Putting my way through and doing it the way I’d thought, because when I started to limit the collaborations from the others and taught them what I wanted they would almost faint, and I was about to end up alone.
seems to me that by now you have reached some comfort in your career.
Do you see yourself as someone who can be an artist all the time or someone
who still has to fight for his daily bread?
Today I live like when I became stable, by the time I was 23 years old, and I don’t need much money to afford my lifestyle. Now I make less music than when I was younger. Before the 90s I made eight or nine albums. In the last decade I made three. But this also has benefits, because now I make music when I really want, when I’m very inspired, when I really need to write.
and where begins the new tour?
In April, in Europe, but I hope to go to Mexico soon.
should the fans expect from this tour?
The new music is very suitable for something more intimate, but it’s a problem, since people don’t sit down at larger venues; to perform in smaller places we’d have to play more than five dates in each city, which would take us more than 18 months to complete a world tour that would be truly exhausting. So we have to find a mid term; now well, musically, these will be very emotional and dramatic presentations, because we’ll exclusively play The Cure’s more obscure repertoire. I really don’t feel like playing the pop songs, but playing again the great themes from the past that we haven’t played in a long time and prepare something with projections and stuff.
Do you have any golden
dream you still haven’t accomplished, musically speaking?
I’m very fulfilled. The Cure has given me almost everything I dreamed since I was a child. And I never thought of getting anywhere special. I just wanted to make music and the group was not a mean to an end, it is an end in itself that still keeps my dream alive today. I can say Bloodflowers is one of the best three albums I’ve done in my life.
How does it feel talking to Robert Smith twelve years after turning my back to him as a fan? Very strange. It’s like finally meeting someone who everyone you know has talked to you about in the last twenty years. With a bit of a treason feeling for the hopes built by myself, but with a certain fraternal attitude for everything we went through together being so apart. Like a penpal…
Dissection of Bloodflowers
Robert Smith is an unsettled person in the music environment, and with each record he takes the opportunity to grab the best of each fashionable rhythm and use it as a tool to enrich his own sound, which is already a trademark. Bloodflowers, the latest Cure production, is not an exception, but differently from other albums, in this one he didn’t exceed himself. He kept an objective measure that makes his experiments dissolve harmoniously with the final ambiance of each song, rescuing the dark and depressive tint that defined his style until Disintegration, no care for the generous duration of the cuts. There are nine long, obscure, introspective songs in this album, oscillating between ethereality and saturation, with opaque rhythmic basis, reminding of Massive Attack and Radiohead, coloured by very windy guitars (Out of this World, six minutes and forty three seconds!); the use of distortion obeys more a state of trance than a violent attack (Watching Me Fall, eleven minutes and thirteen seconds!) giving a sensation of submerging in the frozen sea.
The guitar plunk in “Where the Birds Always Sing” recalls, for a moment, the most powerful part of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, keeping the electric guitar stippling and Smith’s resigned voice in service of the keyboard atmosphere.
The more accelerated rhythm in “Maybe Someday” takes pity on the unquiet without much fuss, tangling itself in a shimmering filigree of echoing guitars, marching drums and vertigo keyboards. In “The Last day of Summer” the listener receives a kinder but equally nostalgic tune. “There Is No If” is a truly suggestive ballad because of its austerity and swiftness; besides, part of its singularity remains in the fact that it is the shortest song in the album (three minutes and forty three seconds), while in most records – by any artist – who embrace this genre, slow songs are usually the longest. The small change that could well follow “Out of This World” is “The Loudest Sound” because it abides the mood in “There Is No If”, but is supported by one of these rhythms so suitable for slow dancing. To avoid this there’s “39”, intense as a collapse – and mind-betraying drums. This title may possibly refer to Smith’s age… who must feel like an oak tree…
The session ends with “Bloodflowers” that, besides naming the record, confirms and resumes the storm this entire album is. All the songs – lyrics and music – were written by Robert Smith, who is also responsible for singing, playing guitar, keyboards and six-string bass. His old pal Simon Gallup is still the official bassist. Perry Bamonte is on guitars, Jason Cooper on drums and percussion and Roger O’Donnell remains on the keyboards. Bloodflowers was recorded in St. Catherine’s Court, Avon, and in Rak Studio 3, London, and was mixed and produced by Robert Smith and Paul Corckett.