Who would have imagined that the Cure’s Robert Smith, onetime poster boy for sulky alienation, would grow into such a happy chappy? Wild Mood Swings, the Cure’s 10th studio album, reveals Smith, now approaching middle age, to be a reasonably well-adjusted pop star whose best new songs are downright inspiring. ”I really don’t think it gets any better than this/A thrill, a smile and a gorgeous strawberry kiss,” he exults on the bubbly ”Mint Car,” while the Motownish ”Gone!” finds him coming on like a self-help guru, urging listeners to shake off those blues, get out, and face the world.
It’s not all perkiness and positive vibes. But even the relatively downbeat numbers, like the aptly titled ”Numb” and the orchestrated mini-epic ”Bare,” fail to evoke any emotion more extreme than gentle melancholia. The 37-year-old Smith may still look like an overfed gothic fop, but he’s no dunce. He knows that the bulk of his old fans didn’t commit suicide or wind up in mental institutions. Most just got on with the difficult business of living and would rather not be reminded of gloomy adolescent afternoons spent soaking their ears in symphonies of depression. Such people now prefer the solace of hooky, hummable pop music — nothing too heavy, thanks. Smith & Co. are perfectly willing to accommodate them.