Review Summary: Swings from drab to fab to drag.
What actually makes a Cure record work? What makes it distinct; worthwhile? If you ask me it’s when the band knows exactly what it’s aiming for, be that the pop charts or goth rock cliques. Looking back at Smith and co’s discography, it becomes clear that their greatest accomplishments come in the form of albums like ‘Disintegration’ and ‘Pornography’, which aimed to create intense, morose atmospheres (and succeeded), and ‘The Head on the Door’ and ‘Kiss Me…’ which went, generally, down more pop-oriented routes (and, again, succeeded). But with ‘Wild Mood Swings’, one is transported to those ‘other’ albums in The Cure’s catalogue - records like ‘The Top’ that didn’t really have a concrete mood or sound set in place, and suffered because of it.
What stops ‘Wild Mood Swings’ from ranking up there with the goths best is that, as hinted at before, it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. It flows quite neatly with solid track after solid track but doesn’t really connect that much either. There’s no extreme darkness tying things together, nor is their an abundance of top 20 hit potential that muster a catchy, anthemic feel.
What we have is material that’s fine, and at times quite enjoyable indeed. If the lack of thematic consistency is a negative aspect of the album, then conversely, one thing it certainly does have going for it is its eclecticism. We move from the mariachi horns and Latin-vibes of ‘The 13th’, to sombre, distorted rock (‘Want’), to the pure-pop glory of ‘Mint Car’, and almost everywhere else in-between. With its rather carefree glow and jovial ambiance it feels quite odd considering the bands past, but also works quite well, despite itself.
But, more markedly, ‘Wild Mood Swings’ floats about in the air more than it touches ground. Although it sounds brash, most of the album is rather average and not that memorable. One can’t say that The Cure didn’t try to be creative, with the wide array of styles on offer, but at the same time, that’s what holds the record back. ‘Wild Mood Swings’ really needs that strong distinction of gloom or guitar pop that previous efforts held onto. In other words, it feels like an album without great direction - not gothic, not polished radio-rock, just unfamiliar and unconcerned.
It’s still rather enjoyable upon the first few spins, and despite seeming quite average, it’s not got any ‘bad’ songs littering the disc, per se. There’s no track that’d make you think again about your loyalty to The Cure, but at the same time, there’s nothing that’d make you fall for them any deeper, bar one or two tracks like ‘Mint Car’ and ‘Club America’. Essentially, it’s a middle-of-the-road Cure album - far from terrible, but skipable for all but the devout and those wishing to get the complete picture about this seminal post-punk outfit.