The Cure — “4:13 Dream”
by David Nicolas
Many bands today are quick to mention England’s The Cure as one of their main influences. With unforgettable songs like the somber “A Night Like This,” the untiring mid-tempo of “Just Like Heaven” or the timeless, bass-driven shuffle of “Lovecats,” The Cure has unquestionably made its mark in the world of music. We can applaud the band for staying together for more than 30 years and for its completion of 12 full-length albums, but its latest release, “4:13 Dream,” is far from The Cure that many have come to love.
The first track, “Underneath the Stars,” is that forever burning light at the end of The Cure’s tunnel. The song starts beautifully with cascading chimes and a drum loop that softly bursts into shimmering guitars. Two epic minutes pass before Robert Smith’s delicate, echoed vocals enter the track and add to the song’s lush dreamscape of sound. “Underneath the Stars” prepares the listener for a potentially moving record. However, it presents itself as only a mirage for the later tracks that simply don’t deliver.
The Cure’s 13th studio album is filled with forgettable pop numbers like “The Perfect Boy,” or the punk-pop ramblings of “Freak Show” that make eager fingers ready to press the next button. The track “The Only One” is bouncy and cheerful, and seems to have been taken straight from Smith’s diaries and into the studio without further embellishment or second thoughts that it needs.
The record picks up with “Sleep When I’m Dead,” as Smith’s distorted voice rushes with angst against Jason Cooper’s unwavering drums and Pori Thompson’s screeching guitar. These elements, combined with Simon Gallup’s steady bass line, help the track rise from the pack.
“Yeah I’ve been this way before / But something done here changed,” bellows Smith in “The Scream.” Here, his tone remains in a low and agonizing drawl, sounding conflicted as ever. The guitars of Thompson and Smith seem to be stuck in a hypnotic three-chord progression that rides Cooper’s progressively aggressive drum attack until it climaxes with Smith’s raging howl.
Gallup’s bass leads the band into the scattered and fittingly titled last track “It’s Over,” which sounds like a recorded improvisation by the band. As the initial ruckus comes to an end, Smith is almost indecipherable, singing in a hurried slur.
The faster tracks seem to pick up where the record falls into a bottomless pit of repetitive song structures and pop melodies. If anything, “4:13 Dream” shows that The Cure is still willing to put out music it loves to play, something that many bands only wish they could do.
Deerhunter — “Microcastle”
by Shapan Debnath
Deerhunter has been an indie darling ever since its sophomore effort “Cryptograms” crept out of obscurity and into the limelight. The band’s brainchild, Bradford Cox, used a combination of atmospheric noise with catchy melodies to create a brand of post-punk that appealed to a wide spectrum of fans. While “Cryptograms” was a step forward from the band’s raw debut, Cox showed interest in making more straightforward songs that cut out the excess. The band’s third LP,
“Microcastle,” is a clear manifestation of what Cox had in mind.
The album grabs you from the dreamy intro, which seamlessly segues into “Agoraphobia.” The song’s easy-going melodies are an ironic twist to the lyrics, which are about being buried alive. “Never Stops” features controlled feedback that contributes blissfully to the chorus, and a pounding bridge that is soothed over by Cox’s haunting vocals.
The middle four tracks provide the subtle ambience some fans crave, but also flow so effortlessly that a casual listener can appreciate them. The title track, “Microcastle,” crawls through until the drums kick in for a bouncy finish. “Cavalry Scars” and “Green Jacket” are tiny morose morsels that melt into each other, while “Activa” closes the middle quartet with its eerie chimes and strings quietly dissolving into nothing. The delicacy in dealing with these songs showcases them properly without bogging down the album.
The album thumps away with the incredible “Nothing Ever Happened.” The song starts with flowing guitars only to mesmerize the listener with excellent bass line transitions. The shoegazing “Neither of Us, Uncertainly” is beautiful, but only preps the listener for an excellent closer. “Twilight at Carbon Lake” is a hypnotizing waltz until the latter third of the song, where the band pummels its instruments into submission, displaying its power, grace and control in this gorgeous song.
There are a lot of factors that could explain the maturity of “Microcastle.” The production is excellent, the band switched guitarists and Cox has grown as a songwriter. But really, this is a collective effort. This band sounds tighter than ever. And even if you crave the old, occasionally distorted ambient overkill, the bonus disc to this record, “Weird Era Cont.” is sure to tickle your fancy. But “Microcastle” is the main feature here, showcasing a flourishing band during an era where most music sounds the same. This record is a masterpiece.