Review Summary: Dreams of a return to quality; wakes up and finds it’s a reality.
Originally intended to be a double album, ‘4:13 Dream’ features just 13 of the purported 33 tracks The Cure recorded for the scrapped concept. It’s an interesting move for a band 30 years into its career to attempt such an ambitious task, but the results can never be truly assessed until a second album is released (presumably in 2012, if it follows the same 4 year gap each of the band’s albums since ‘Wish’ in 1992, have), whereupon one can assess whether the decision to place the poppy tracks on this disc and reserve the rest of the (darker) material for inclusion on ‘Part 2’, was a wise move or just a desperate error.
The fact that ‘4:13 Dream’ has consciously gone down a gentler route will set alarm bells ringing for those with a pallet only suited to gloomy Cure, whilst simultaneously grabbing the attention of those that favour ‘The Head on the Door’ and ‘Kiss Me…’ over the lads gothic output of the early eighties. That second group will not be disappointed, as ‘4:13 Dream’ is one of the better attempts at radio-friendly pop-rock The Cure have released in a number of years. In fact, it’s probably the most enjoyable pop incarnation of the ex-goths since ‘Wish’, 16 years pervious.
The set opens strong with the spacious, dreamy ‘Underneath The Stars’, and gets more enjoyable as it moves on, with the jangley, sprightly ‘Freakshow’, the silky, light-pop of ‘Only One’, and the solid vocals and catchy riff present on ‘Reasons Why’. Things shape up really nicely, with the beach-sunset warmth of ‘Sirensong’ and the genuinely well-executed chorus of ‘Real Snow White’ solidifying the light, soft, and instantly loveable quality the disc hints at early doors.
Against the odds, The Cure have produced one of their best albums in years. Sure, the gothic fans of the group mightn’t see the appeal, but for everyone else, ‘4:13 Dream’ is the first Cure album in a while that cannot be brushed off as a record for ‘fans-only’. It’s no ‘Disintegration’, but it's surprisingly satisfying, and its consistency and confidence make it one of the most exciting Cure releases of the decade.
The issues that plagued most of the recent Cure albums tended to gravitate around the band’s self-consciousness - when Robert Smith tried too hard to make an album that sounds 20 years old, to appease the call for a ‘Disintegration’-esque album. What those fans (and Smith) didn’t realise, is that accomplishing such a task is nearly impossible. The band has grown up and their sound needs to follow suit, so deliberately gothic efforts like ‘Bloodflowers’ only made it clear that Smith was struggling at maturing into a artist with three decades behind his crazy, unkempt locks.
With ‘4:13 Dream’, it seems Smith has finally overcome this issue, and tailored the album to compliment his new-found self-awareness. As a result, the band sounds fresher and more contemporary than they have since the early nineties. It really benefits the album - the track-list is bubbling with warmth, confidence, maturity and most markedly, potential for the future of a band that seemed too old to walk months ago.
‘4:13 Dream’ is thoroughly enjoyable, and solid from start to finish, leaving one with a quiet confidence for ‘Part 2’, should it ever see the light of day. As I stated at the beginning of this review: we’ll never be able to assess if band’s double-album concept will return them to glory until another record hits the shelves, but in the meantime who cares? The fans have gained something just as important as an answer to that question with ‘4:13 Dream’. Faith. Faith in a band that seemed to be standing on tenuous legs for years, because these goths have shown they’re not ready to sit down just yet.