Though it has been said before, The Cure’s Robert Smith has indicated that the band’s next album will be its last, due to the intensity of songwriting process, and the resulting emotional exhaustion.
It has taken thirteen years for The Cure to follow up on their last album, 4:13 Dream. Since then, the band has released live albums, compilations, and films. Robert Smith has conceded that songwriting woes and his own high lyrical standards have contributed to the long hiatus. The eccentric frontman has no interest in resting upon his laurels nor does he wish to repeat himself. He admits to being his own harshest critic, and nearly threw in the towel a few times during the process.
“How many things are there to write about? Seven stories or something?”, he pondered during an interview with The Sunday Times. “You try to find different words for something and it steps out of your normal use of language and sounds terrible. I want to sing as I speak and my vocabulary is reasonably OK, so I thought, ‘I’ll put “undulating” in a song.’ That is one I tried. Then I think, ‘You’re not singing fucking “undulating”!’”
Smith’s confession is not a new revelation, however; nor is it unusual for most recording artists to arrive at this particular crossroads in their career, particularly when pressure from record labels is out of the picture. Smith has the freedom to do what he pleases, and has complete artistic control. This can be a difficult position for perfectionists, however. In 2019, Smith told NME “I think that every album we do is the last Cure album. It may well be, but if there’s another bunch of good songs then there’s no reason not to follow it up. What do we do if we’ve got seven good songs leftover? Wherever it ends up, it will be an honest decision. There’s no record company involvement. It’s just us doing it. No one is pulling the strings.”
The pandemic proved to be the balm Smith needed to get back in the songwriting process and finish up the album, but the toll it’s taken on him is palpable. Making a whole gallon of lemonade from the lemons of COVID quarantine, Robert Smith found a rare opportunity in the prospect of a year trapped inside: no distractions. With his usual touring demands evaporated, Smith was able to complete a number of projects, including guest spots on a new Gorillaz track, Strange Timez, and most recently on How Not To Drown by CHVRCHES.
Smith promoted How Not To Drown during an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1, speaking about the status of The Cure and his own solo work.
“Probably in about six weeks time, I’ll be able to say when everything’s coming out and what we’re doing next year and everything …We were doing two albums and one of them’s very, very doom and gloom and the other one isn’t. And they’re both very close to being done. I just have to decide who’s going to mix them. That’s really all I’ve got left to do.”
As the onslaught of cicadas reappears in the trees, The Cure frontman follows suit with the culmination of his own cycle. (It’s also worth noting that Smith has been talking about his debut solo album since 2001, (or decades before that). One thing is for certain, Robert Smith cares enough to get his work right, and that’s something to be thankful for.