Unfortunately, there’s nothing especially wild about Wild Mood Swings, the Cure’s first studio album in four years. In fact, the song remains much the same: Singer and guitarist Robert Smith continues looking for the perfect love, swooning when he thinks he’s found it, collapsing wrecked when (inevitably) he’s disappointed.
When he’s inspired, however, Smith can still make the journey along the tracks of his tears entirely compelling “Want,” which opens the album, renders emotional desolation in gripping terms, making the most of Smith’s ability to conjure a haunting atmosphere from a simple, endlessly repeated guitar figure. On the more upbeat “Club America,” Smith borrows vocal tricks from Bowie and Iggy to evoke the jaded thrills of nightclubbing in the American fun house.
But too much of Wild Mood Swings recedes into generic Cure styles — brooding meditations on loss (“Treasure”) and shiny, happy, self-consciously clichéd pop songs (“Mint Car”). The horns and strings Smith intermittently introduces to freshen his sound — most notably on “The 13th,” a lounge-mariachi number that is the album’s first single — fail to make much of a difference.
On Wild Mood Swings, Smith seems too trapped within his own obsessions to know when he’s merely expressed them and when he’s transformed them into art. It can sometimes be a thin line, but Smith has walked it before with far more satisfying results.