Review Summary: Classic Cure this is not, but 4:13 Dream is certainly easier to digest than some of the band's previous works.
Four years, a cancelled North American tour, and a slew of missed deadlines later, The Cure has finally released their thirteenth studio album. It's been a long, arduous process for the band's fans (and probably the band itself), a fact a good friend of mine hasn't been reluctant to remind me of. “[But] still," he would tell me, "at least their next album is supposed to be a double album!" That was eleven months ago. Clearly, things didn't go exactly as planned. Instead, Cure frontman Robert Smith opted to separate the recording (which was rumoured to be thirty-three songs long), with 2008's 4:13 Dream
taking a more positive slant, while the as of yet untitled second half comprising of the darker tracks. But as disappointing as the change in plans may be, especially after all the delays, 4:13 Dream
is still a quality release, as well as one of the strongest albums The Cure has released in quite awhile.
"Underneath the Stars" kicks things off with a bit of a gloomy jam reminiscent of Disintegration
's "Plainsong", but after the six minute opener, the murkiness quickly dissipates. In its place, a bouncier, upbeat Cure takes over. "Only One" and "Hungry Ghost" are two of the more energetic offerings featured on 4:13 Dream
. Musically, they present a glimpse of what the album has to offer, that being material generally happier and poppier than one would usually associate with the English band. Smith's singing is placed at the forefront of the album; sometimes he sounds genuinely content, particularly in the aforementioned "Only One", but other times a wistful tone manages to break through. Such moments of intimacy contrast very nicely with the layers of heavy instrumentation, especially guitars. That isn't to say that 4:13 Dream
is all sunshine and daisies, of course. Smith sings the rather disturbing "I won't try to bring you down with my suicide" in "Reasons Why", and his "You've got what I want"s in "Real Snow White" could have been menacing if not for the buoyant chorus that shortly follows. "The Scream" and "It's Over" close off the album on a dark note; the former taking a mellower, effect heavy approach, and the latter taking a more frenzied route. Effectively, both songs provide a nice transition into what should have been the darker, second half of the album, a point made all the more evident through Smith's yelps of "This is not a dream" in "The Scream".
Overall, 4:13 Dream
is an extremely consistent album throughout its runtime. Though the heavy wah effects "Switch" are somewhat irksome, and the dynamics of "Freakshow" are a bit odd, there is hardly a dull moment to be heard. The Wish
-era Cure meets The Cranberries alt rock in "Sleep When I'm Dead" is particularly infectious, as is "Real Snow White", which is heavily built on intricate guitar melodies and dense rhythms. Classic Cure this is not, but it is, dare I say it, an easier album to digest than some of the band's previous works. Even if the material is a little atypical for the band, it's great to see that The Cure still has some juice left in the tank, especially after the torpid sounding efforts that were Bloodflowers
and The Cure
. Now hopefully it won't take another four years to release the second half.