The Cure At 28: Back In Vogue, With A Little Help From Their Friends

Band's return to popularity was boosted by longtime fans in high places.

Don't blame producer Ross Robinson if the Cure's new, self-titled album is heavier than fans of the classics Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me or Wish might have hoped. According to bandleader Robert Smith, Robinson — responsible for some of Korn and Slipknot's hardest fare — asked him to tone it down.

"I actually thought the album turned out far less heavy than I envisioned it," Smith said. "When we hooked up with Ross Robinson, I had this idea of making the all-time heaviest record that the Cure would ever make. But Ross sort of likes the melodic, pop side of the band, as well as the more emotional side."

Smith was also surprised at the autonomy Robinson, who said for years that his lifelong dream was to produce a Cure album, gave to the band.

"He allowed us the freedom to put what we wanted on the album. I was expecting him to be much more hard-nosed about how he wanted the record to sound, but it wound up just sounding like a Cure record."

Not only does the The Cure, which debuted last month on the Billboard albums chart at #7, sound like a Cure record, it sounds like lots of them. Some of the album's 11 tracks recall past phases of the 28-year-old band, which has evolved from a poppy punk group to brooding goth touchstones. "Lost" is an anthem for confused adolescents set amid a soundscape of hollow, swirling sounds reminiscent of 1980's 17 Seconds. "Us or Them" contains the angry guitar freak-outs found on 1989's Disintegration. And the single, "The End of the World," captures the dreamy pop simplicity of 1979's Boys Don't Cry, while also sounding remarkably like indie-rock pioneers Pavement.

But perhaps even more amazing than Smith putting on his best Steven Malkmus is the singer lending his vocals to Blink-182's "All of This," a track from the band's latest album. Don't act too amazed at the collaboration, however: Smith sees nothing strange about a patently gloomy, pale-faced Brit hooking up with a Southern California pop-punk trio.

"I was irritated by some of the people around me who were saying, 'You can't do that. It's Blink,' " Smith said. "They weren't allowing the band to develop. I can remember what happened to us after the first album. I wanted us to become something else, and we got an awful lot of stick from certain sections of the media about how we weren't supposed to do something different."

Fans have been seeing many different shades of the Cure at this summer's Curiosa festival, which winds down August 29 in Sacramento (see "At Cure's Curiosa Fest, Stiffness, Old Hits, Inappropriate Black Suits Abound" ). Smith himself chose the lineup, which also includes Interpol, the Rapture and Mogwai on all dates and Head Automatica, Thursday and Auf De Maur at select shows. Even before The Cure was released, the band had become in vogue after many new bands, several of which are on the festival, cited them as a major influence. While not disputing his band's influence — other groups admire the Cure's vitality and longevity most of all, Smith said — the singer doesn't agree with the accusations of musical thievery that have been directed at some of the new rockers.

"You'd be very hard pressed to draw any kind of musical connection between Muse, Mogwai and Head Automatica," he said. "These are hugely different-sounding bands. People are saying the Rapture sound like the Cure, but they don't at all. That's nonsense. I can hear bits in some of the bands, but in turn, [the Cure's new album] was influenced by some of them. I thought Thursday's album was really, really good. It blew me away when I heard it. It made me want to make a record that had some of that aggression to it."

As far as the tour itself, Smith said it's going "fabulously" despite some initial trepidation from promoters skeptical of a nationwide tour headlined by an "underground" band that's been around for a quarter-century and supported by groups whose audience largely lies in the major metropolises of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

"At one stage, when we were suggesting doing this, we were getting a bit of pressure from promoters who were nervous about the lineup because, at the time, the Lollapalooza sales were very shaky," Smith explained. "They wanted us to add some bigger names to the bill. But Lollapalooza doesn't make any difference to us. It doesn't work that way.

"This tour is the most fun I've had in years," he added. "It far exceeded my expectations. Everyone watches each other. Everyone's mingling before and after and staying up very late."

Remaining Curiosa tour dates, according to the Cure's Web site:

  • 8/17 - Englewood, CO @ Coors Amphitheatre

  • 8/18 – West Valley City, UT @ USANA Amphitheatre

  • 8/21 - George, WA @ The Gorge

  • 8/24 - Chula Vista, CA @ Coors Amphitheatre

  • 8/25 - Phoenix, AZ @ Cricket Pavilion

  • 8/27 - Carson, CA @ Home Depot Center

  • 8/28 - San Francisco, CA @ SBC Park

  • 8/29 - Sacramento, CA @ ARCO Arena