The Cure's Robert Smith is a love cat with nine lives. He's the groovy big sister you always wished you had, a swirl of big, sticky hair and lipstick and New Wave angst. He still reigns as the coolest lesbian rock star of all time, even if he's technically a straight guy. The Cure are on a roll these days, and the new album is their most adventurous and passionate since Disintegration. "Before Three," "Lost" and "(I Don't Know What's Going) On . . ." are jaw-droppingly great hymns to romantic obsession — the Cure's specialty. The first big surprise on The Cure is how loud and resonant the guitars are, with no neo-Eighties keyboards at all. The next big surprise is Smith's huge vocals — he sounded wispy on the erratic Bloodflowers (2000), but he emotes live and direct here. People tend to associate Smith with adolescent gloom, but he's always sung smart adult love songs — "The Lovecats," "Just Like Heaven" — and he hits one of his all-time romantic peaks here, wailing the twisted devotion of "Before Three": "Whispering dreams, so fucked and high/It's hard to hold this night inside." It's the grooviest thing, it's a perfect dream.
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