“It is very difficult to hold on to your younger self. When you’ve written about it, it’s like a diary when you write songs, and you kind of think, “F*** me, was I That sad when I was so young?’ I had no idea.”
So said Robert Smith on the first night of the sold-out three-show Cure at Los Angeles’s 17,500-capacity Hollywood Bowl, speaking to an admiring generation that has grown up — and aged — listening to his anguished, anguished confessionals over the past four decades. Each night’s nearly three-hour set featured the sombre selections of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted post-punk band (especially “A Thousand Hours,” with its opening line, “For how long long can I howl into this wind?” /For how long long can I cry like this?”) certainly resonated differently in 2023. But it was the six unreleased tracks from The Cure’s long-delayed and highly anticipated 14th studio album, Songs of a Lost World (which will be their first LP release since 2008 4:13 Dream), which were particularly dark – even by Cure’s standards – as Smith, now 64 years old, struggled with his mortality in a way he simply couldn’t in his twenties and thirties.
“I experienced more of the dark side of life, in real life. I used to write about things I thought I understood. Now I know I understand. The lyrics I’ve written for this album are more true to me personally,” Smith told Britain’s NME in 2019, when he first teased plans for the new record. ‘They are fairer. That’s probably why the album itself is a bit more doom and gloom. I feel like I want to do something that expresses the dark side of what I’ve been through over the years, but in a way that resonates with people.” That same year, Smith told the Los Angeles Times That Songs of a Lost World would be “very on the dark side of the spectrum. I recently lost my mother and my father and my brother, and it clearly affected me. … It is worth the wait. I think it’s the best thing we’ve done, but then I’d say so. Many of the songs are difficult to sing and that’s why it took a while.”
Smith, one of the most iconic and instantly recognizable voices in rock, actually sounded flawless as he got deep into the Songs of a Lost World material. Debuts a new album track, “Another (Happy) Birthday”, he lamented: “And your birthday is the worst day / I’m singing to a ghost / ‘Happy birthday’ … I’ve forgotten how it goes …” Although the origin of that song may have been traced back to 1997, Smith could have sung it to his recently deceased musician parents, or to his late brother, Richard. Affectionately known as “The Guru” and 13 years older than Robert, Richard was a huge influence in the formation of The Cure. He taught Robert how to play basic guitar and introduced Robert to his extensive record collection in the early 1970s.
“I Can Never Say Goodbye” was introduced each night as specifically about Richard, and featured the heartbreaking chorus: “Something bad comes this way / Out of the cruel and treacherous night / Something bad comes this way / To save the life of to steal my brother away.” Every Bowl night is the other Songs of a Lost World previews included “Alone”, “A Fragile Thing”, “And Nothing Is Forever”, and the aptly titled pre-encore closer “Endsong”, in which Robert sang: “And I’m outside in the dark/Staring at the blood – red moon/Remembering the hopes and dreams I had/All I had to do/And wondering what became of that boy/And the world he called his/And I’m out in the dark/I wonder how I got so old.”
In fact, The Cure’s music is timeless and their Shows of a Lost World Tour wasn’t all death and despair. As one of the most shape-shifting bands of all time, their nightly, slightly varied setlists deviated from the spartan punk pop of Three imaginary boysto the effervescent Eurodisco of “Let’s Go to Bed” and “The Walk”, to the bad-acid-trip psychedelics of The top‘s “Shake Dog Shake”, until blissful 120 minutesera classics of The head on the door And Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me…and then back to the funeral laments of the two albums that seem to have the most in common with the forthcoming one Songs of a Lost World1982 Pornography and the years 1989 disintegration.
Smith has cried, claiming every album will be The Cure’s last since the release of disintegrationwhich many fans (including the South Park kids!) and critics consider this to be the pinnacle of the band’s career. (Ironically, Smith wrote that claustrophobic depressing record intending it to be “commercial suicide,” as he once explained to Yahoo Entertainment, but it ended up being The Cure’s biggest release. It sold 3 million copies and delivered a hit single, “Lovesong,” which went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was later covered by 311, Adele and at least two american idol participants.) However, it seems Songs of a Lost World really could be Smith’s final, defining statement.
In 2020, keyboardist Roger O’Donnell narrated Classic doll that he had advised Smith: “’We have one more record to make. It has to be the most intense, saddest, most dramatic, most emotional record we’ve ever made, and then we can just walk away from it.” He agreed. Listening to the demos, it is that record.” A year later, Smith himself told the UK Sunday Times“The new [album] is very emotional. It’s 10 years of life distilled into a few hours of intense work. I can’t think we’ll ever do anything else. I certainly can’t do this again.”
There’s still no confirmed release date for it Songs of a Lost World, but regardless of what the future holds for the Cure, the lyrics to the new song “And Nothing Is Forever” resonated deeply this week with the band’s loyal LA fans, many of whom spent all three nights of the Cure’s Hollywood bowl run. “My world has grown old / But it really doesn’t matter / If you say we’ll be together,” Smith begged. “Promise you’ll be with me eventually… You’ll remember me tonight.”
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