Review Summary: That Friday feeling…
“10, 9... 6, 5... 2, 1!” The fireworks exploded in the midnight sky, at different times in different locales, with different languages and different traditions; all uttered the same notion in one way or another - “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”. 1991 had come to close and the face of music was a different beast to what it was just three short years ago when The Cure were riding high on the success of their magnum opus, ‘Disintegration’. That record, despite sounding far from the poppy ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’, or the radio-friendly ‘The Head On The Door’, went big - bigger than Robert Smith and his ever-changing gaggle of Goths probably could’ve ever imagined. The record went on to sell over 3 million copies worldwide and the disc itself, along with its singles, shot The Cure into chart positions they had never felt the pleasure of before.
There is a point to all this rambling - The Cure had a massive amount of pressure and expectation placed upon their tenuous, black-clad shoulders come the time ‘Disintegration’s follow-up was due to be put to tape. The group were left with the unenviable question of how to follow-up such a colossal album; whether to make a similar sounding record, or do something else - be that a return to a former phase of the band’s eclectic past, or trying something new.
The result was… well, neither really. It’s not another gothic album, nor is it the most poppy effort the boys did. It tends to lie somewhere in-between those two extremes - taking elements of nearly all The Cure’s phases and dabbing them here and there, making for a pretty eclectic mix. At times it does the melancholic, moody stuff, like the trudging ‘Apart’, and the gorgeous ‘Trust’; at other times it shoots for the poppy heights achieved by earlier, radio-friendly singles, and succeeds with the album’s unreserved, glistening gem, ‘Friday I’m In Love’; and to a lesser extent with the bizarrely funky ‘Wendy Time’.
But upon first hearing ‘Wish’, with the gloomy grandeur of ‘Disintegration’ still in mind, the album feels a tad underwhelming. It’s frustrating, as one can’t really put a firm finger on exactly why one feels slightly unimpressed when spinning this record - it’s a very strong effort, after all, with touching, sentimental pieces like ‘A Letter To Elise’, with its lovely riff; the wonderful opening cut, called… er, ‘Open’; and of course, ‘Friday I’m In Love’, with its eloquently superb riff and quality lyrics and vocals from Smith - a catchy and concise Cure classic in every way. The aforementioned are just a few highlights, so it becomes increasingly irritating when one still struggles to place ‘Wish’ in any concrete, hierarchical rank in The Cure’s discography.
But the answer to said frustrations is starkly simple and easy to understand. In fact, this writer has made several indirect references to exactly why ‘Wish’ seems, upon its surface, inexplicably underwhelming. It essentially boils down to the fact that it was released when it was - the crucial detail being that it was the follow-up to one of the greatest alternative rock albums of the eighties, ‘Disintegration’. That album is an unbelievably difficult body of work to follow, and that’s precisely why ‘Wish’ feels weaker at first glimpse.
With all that in mind, it becomes advisable that ‘Wish’ is best approached without thought of ‘Disintegration’. If you hit play without any expectations or notions of what this record should be it really begins to shine, and show off of its strength - its consistency acting as flexing muscles, inspiring appreciation and awe in observers. If you don’t think of this as the follow-up to ‘Disintegration’ and instead, just chalk it up as another Cure record (which it is, at the end of the day), then after several plays, ‘Wish’ slowly but surely begins to mark itself out as a very enjoyable album - on a par with ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ and trailing not too far behind ‘The Head On The Door’ - two exceptional reasons to make sure this album finds its way into the sweaty palms of any Cure admirer who’s been putting the record off, for far too long.