Albums Revisited: The Cure’s ‘Wish’ Turns 25: a look back on the band’s best-selling, yet oddly overlooked 1992 album on its 25th anniversary.
1992 saw a musical landscape still basking in the sounds of Seattle. Thanks to Nirvana’s Nevermind, grunge and heavy alt-rock were the flavor of the day, making the alternative college music scene quite different from only a few years earlier, when the genre was of the more genteel British variety. American rock was now back in fashion.
But where other UK Goth and New Wave acts saw their spotlight fading, The Cure kept on plugging, and followed up their iconic 1989 album Disintegration with Wish, their 1992 effort which marked their highest charting and best-selling release to date.
Wish (which turns 25 April 21st) was a more varied album than Disintegration, and saw the band embracing both the light and dark elements of their sound in a way that recalled their 1987 double-album effort Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, but in a more concise package.
This made Wish a pop single-driven album, from the spritely High, to the funky Wendy Time to the beatific and wonderfully silly Friday, I’m in Love.
But to label the album a lightweight affair would be a mistake: while Wish didn’t plumb the depths of despair to the levels of Disintegration or Pornography, there were plenty of bleak, nihilistic gems among the snappier numbers.
It certainly starts off in misanthropic fashion with Open, a track which documents frontman/mastermind Robert Smith’s need to get ripped to tolerate record label industry functions. His lyrics perfectly encapsulate his social awkwardness and self-loathing:I stand up too close and two wide and the smiles are too bright, and I breathe in too deep,and my head’s getting light.
High follows, and is of course the polar opposite: its one of the band’s most effervescent pop confections, although it’s been usurped in popularity by Friday, I’m in Love, a song derided by many fans despite its beguiling charms (and hilarious music video featuring the band members at their most inebriated). Less remembered is Doing The Unstuck, another upbeat number featuring one of Smith’s most un-Cure battle cries: Let’s Get Happy!
In many ways Wish came along right when I needed it–its euphoric highs and heartbreaking lows mirrored a particularly tumultuous relationship I had in college, and when things eventually crashed and burned, I leaned on the dark stuff the most.
Trust, To Wish Impossible Things, A Letter To Elise–all are some of the most affecting bleak ballads Smith has ever written, but Apart really struck a chord. A tale of love gone bad features Smith’s vocals at a whispered pitch, lamenting what could have been: How did we get this far apart? We used to be so close together. How did we get this far apart? I thought this love would last forever.
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea is another epic track, featuring a twisting guitar riff and oceanic atmospherics, again recounting a relationship gone off the rails. Smith had commented about his penchant for writing about doomed romance in a 1992 issue of Details magazine, noting that despite his longterm relationship with partner Mary Poole, his best lyrics involved the girl who got away.
Cut is another dramatic entry, with guitarist Porl Thompson unleashing righteous feedback that punctuate Smith’s fraught vocals: Fire go out and friendship die, I wish you felt the way that I still do!
One thing that makes Wish noteworthy in the The Cure’s discography is that it’s the last album featuring drummer Boris Williams. Thompson would also leave the band (he would return for 2008’s 4:13 Dream). It also showcased the début of keyboardist/guitarist Perry Bamonte, who replaced Roger O’Donnell.That’s worth mentioning as the band’s musicianship and interplay on Wish is particularly impressive, augmented by longtime bassist Simon Gallup. In many ways its one of their most musically accomplished albums in terms of instrumentation and production.
Smith has always hinted that The Cure were going to breakup, even back in their 80’s heyday, and closing song (the fittingly titled End) is another empty threat that the band were on their last legs, with Smith rejecting any notion of being a rock star: I think I’ve reached that point where giving up and going on are both the same dead-end to me are both the same song…please stop loving me I am none of these things.
If Wish commits one cardinal sin, it’s that it’s not Disintegration. How do you follow-up your greatest album? The fact that Wish is merely very good keeps it from being embraced as an unqualified classic, commercial success be damned.
It does have an important distinction, however: it’s The Cure’s last cohesive release. Certainly follow-ups Wild Mood Swings, Bloodflowers, and 2003’s self-titled and 4:13 Dream have strong tracks, but they’re uneven by comparison.
Wish has aged quite well, and deserves a creative reappraisal (and a deluxe reissue!)–showing Robert Smith at the height of his songwriting powers, able to conjure mood, melody and sentiment like few of his contemporaries could master.
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