The Cure – Bloodflowers (2000)

I somehow feel music is a seasonal thing, or at least my own musical tastes have a cyclical way of manifesting. The Cure is the first band of the year for me, and has been for many years now. What I mean by this is that after each new-year’s eve, sometime in January, I get this longing for their soulful, sensitive melodies, the sad, spacious music which can complement the fading winter outside, just as it seems more stubborn than ever before, more reluctant to give in to the prolonging day and the sweetly scented breeze which seems to announce spring. I like this soft, comfortable cycle, it feels right somehow, and today I decided to give in to the urge and listen to Robert Smith’s affected, dramatic voice spin tales of confusion and analyze his own moods while weaving such a wonderful context for the listener to do the same.

Bloodflowers seems to be an underrated Cure album, or at least that’s the vibe I’m getting from such vague sources as YouTube comments and random reviews. But you know how it is with “first albums you hear” – they have a way of sticking with you through thick and thin, and they it’s very rare that they can be replaced by other, more well-received offerings from the same band. I guess for me Bloodflowers is the definitive The Cure record, even though it seems to lack the tremendous contrast their songwriting has displayed throughout their career. You see, it seems Robert Smith has a bit of a bipolar way of composing his lyrics – they’re either crushingly depressing and morose, or unbelievably sweet and upbeat; there seems to be little grey area in between. I guess that’s why Bloodflowers might seem less reflective of The Cure’s general modus operandi. If that’s the case, however, I suppose I’m a fan of grey areas – this album feels so balanced, so deep and so enthralling I can scarcely say I’ve bonded with another one of their records to such an extent.

Robert Smith is often credited, or at least made fun of, as being one of the preeminent inventors of the Goth genre. It’s really no surprise, when their early-eighties album Pornography opens with lyrics such as “It doesn’t matter if we all die”, in the most serious, contained and convincing way. However, Bloodflowers is a far way off from those days, and the emotions and moods conveyed through these songs aren’t as black and white, and nowhere near as bleak, although I wouldn’t call them upbeat either. My feeling is that they’re simply poetic, in a very honest, human way. When I say poetic, I mean highly subjective, with a sprinkle of the arrogance of generalization, the need to make a private feeling make sense in the grand scheme of things. But the bottom line is these songs remain very discreet, very personal, it’s one of those albums which always seems to talk only and directly to you, sometimes whispering softly, other times having true meltdowns of panic and anguish, and yet always maintaining a certain detachment, a way of remaining kind, gentle, even when saying the most dark, despairing things. It’s this gentle wisdom I appreciate most about Bloodflowers, this candid, sweet, nurturing attitude, even in the face of horrific conclusions.

“The world is neither fair nor unfair” is a lyric which seems to fit in perfectly with the themes approached in the much darker Pornography and Disintegration albums (after all, Robert Smith once said he saw those two and Bloodflowers as a trilogy of sorts), but it’s delivered with an ease of mind, a resigned, warm attitude which has the paradoxical effect of sounding upbeat, as if there’s a human element after all, a form of communication, undeniable and ever-present between individuals, which is enough to ride out the bad dream and the burden of analysis.

The music itself does a tremendous job of complementing this deep, meditative mode of thinking on Robert Smith’s part, sounding full, immediate, slightly predictable in a wonderful, familiar way. It’s also much less artificial, dehumanized than it used to be in their eighties albums, which gives me a wonderful feeling of having broken through an unusually long and frightful night, of having escaped from a seemingly endless tunnel. The instruments, in their bountiful dialogue, project a cool, shimmering white lambency which to me translates into the simple, satisfying feeling of hope. Bloodflowers tells me “everything is going to be alright… and even if it isn’t, it still is”. Get it? I’m not sure I do, but on some level, just feeling it is enough.

Enjoy this longing, bitter-sweet album if you will. I stand by my feeling that it’s perfect for January days, so unsure of their own phases, when “from dawn to dusk” seems to pass in the blink of an eye, or rather, it seems there’s really nothing in between and it’s all just one nebulous dawn/twilight, painted in grey and faded, sullied purple. See you soon!

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