20 Years Ago: The Cure Get Weird With ‘Wild Mood Swings’
Robert Smith once called Wild Mood Swings one of his favorite Cure albums. He may be the only one to ever say that about the band’s tenth album and follow-up to 1992’s Wish, which debuted at No. 2 and made them one of the biggest modern rock bands in the world. Wild Mood Swings came out in 1996, four years after their highest-charting record – the longest break they had taken between albums at that point. The extended hiatus, and lackluster songs, make for one of the most poorly received records of the group’s long career.
Things didn't go well from the start. When the Cure began recording Wild Mood Swings in 1995, longtime members Porl Thompson and Boris Williams were both gone, and Smith’s occasional right-hand-man, bassist Simon Gallup, took a break to deal with health issues. By the time the band emerged with the 14 new songs that make up Wild Mood Swings, almost everyone involved with the record was wondering if the four-year break was long enough.
A tired, and often bored, mood drifts through Wild Mood Swings. It’s not even the gloom-and-doom lethargy we usually get from the band. Rather, Smith and the group can’t muster much enthusiasm for the songs. Where Wish and its 1989 predecessor Disintegration (which broke the band in the U.S.) courted mainstream success, Wild Mood Swings goes in the other direction, unloading one heavy-lidded cut after another. Even the album’s lead single, "The 13th," is a boring bust.
The few times the band sparks to life are the few times it seems to latch onto a groove: "Strange Attraction," "Mint Car," "Gone!" But for the most part, the Cure sound like they had an obligation to fill. Fans reacted accordingly. Wild Mood Swings debuted at No. 12 and quickly sank. It eventually went gold, but it took a few years. Neither "The 13th" nor "Mint Car" made it to the Top 40; they both stalled outside of the modern rock Top 10 too. After another four-year break, the Cure returned with Bloodflowers, a dark, melancholy record that put them back on track, slightly, for the time being.