If artists stick around long enough, they always reach the same point: They move from being a vital creative force to just treading water -- doing the same things as before, only not quite as well. When this happens, the tendency is to judge such artists' subsequent records on a handicapped scale, to look at them in much the same way one would regard an elderly greeter at Wal-Mart. Appreciation is no longer based on the quality of their work, but whether they managed to stand and wave at the door without shitting themselves or drooling on the customers. Let's face it: No one would say that anything David Bowie or Prince has done in the past decade or so is their favorite record.
The Cure faces these same issues right out of the gate. The band's synth-heavy squall-and-mope sound reached its zenith on 1989's Disintegration and 1992's Wish and has stayed in the same place ever since, getting duller with each new iteration. Consequently, expectations have fallen pretty low.
The new record, while not exactly a reinvention, is certainly worthy of the phrase "return to form." Recording mostly live in the studio with new producer Ross Robinson, the band hasn't sounded this urgent since Wish. Every instrument sounds like it's being played with purpose and feeling. The opener, "Lost," crawls and stumbles like a drunk chasing his forgotten dreams, howling for what's gone. The lead single, "The End of the World," actually sounds like a Cure single, something that's more common from bands other than the Cure these days.
For all of its influence on modern music, the Cure has been barely avoiding the feces-and-saliva route for the past decade. The Cure changes that and proves the band deserves its status among its fans. While this record won't convert any unbelievers, those who had written the band off will be surprised that the band members still had a good one in them, and the album may touch a few souls in the process.