The CURE – ” Bloodflowers ” Released February 14th 2000

Posted: February 15, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , , ,

Happy 20th Anniversary to The Cure’s eleventh studio album “Bloodflowers”, originally released in the UK February 14th 2000 and in the US February 15th, 2000.

The Cure greeted the millennium with their eleventh studio album Bloodflowers, a deliberate statement from singer and guitarist Robert Smith written in the run-up to his fortieth birthday. Whereas predecessors Wish (1992) and Wild Mood Swings (1996) were more exploratory entanglements by the British group’s five members, Bloodflowers shows Smith fully reclaiming the artistic reins, just as he had 10 years prior with Disintegration (1989). 

At the time he was making Disintegration, Smith was recently married and confronting the crisis of turning 30. His meticulous care in delivering on his vision for Disintegration was not only a gift to himself and the band, but to fans as well. Nearly 31 years later, the gorgeous opus continues to stir love and tears among all who come to know it. But, perfection is never easy to attain. And, Smith was well-aware of his obsessive, if agonizing, ways.

Speaking circa Bloodflowers’ released in February 2000, Smith commented, “I was very difficult to work with on this album, as I was with Disintegration, for that reason because I insisted everything was done exactly as I wanted. So, it’s kind of unpleasant band members really cos they don’t feel that they’re of any value, I suppose, when we’re making the record. Although I try and impress upon them the fact that without the group, it wouldn’t sound like The Cure….Who’s in the group defines the sound. But, with Wish and with Wild Mood Swings, they were group collaborations and everyone had a say. And I would kind of be just a fifth member of the band really a lot of the time.” 

Only about half of the songs seemed to have any real depth. To my barely adult ears, the new album sounded somewhat recycled and uninspired. “39,” the penultimate track from Bloodflowers  I caught up to the headspace Smith was in when he penned that song. But, it was also distressing to feel the gravity of the lyrics and realize them to be true: “Half my life I’ve been here / Half my life in flames / Using all I ever had to keep the fire ablaze / To keep the fire ablaze / To keep the fire ablaze / To keep the fire ablaze…But there’s nothing left to burn.”

After giving so much of yourself to life, whatever that may entail—relationships, career, artistic expression, yourself—it can be incredibly draining. It’s a struggle to find the energy to keep going through the motions, and if you do, it’s often devoid of emotion, which is all the more devastating for someone whose identity is so entrenched in feeling.

But, if Bloodflowers met midlife with this scorching warning, it also offers mature meditative acceptance that youthful ambitions and hopes may blind us to. Even in their earliest moments, Cure lyrics and instrumentation held a wistful longing, a romantic pull against reality, a nostalgic yearning for what never was. And although so much of Smith’s poetry, and the accompanying melodies, acknowledge the painful, often tragic, rift between fantasy and reality, time and time again, the records return us to this dreamlike world. With Bloodflowers, Smith consciously faces these idealistic tendencies. His choice to release the album on Valentine’s Day offers further evidence.

Smith explained, “I just thought it would be kind of darkly romantic…Valentine’s Day when you’re young particularly is a day of unrequited love. It’s actually one of the most depressing days of the year because you find yourself unable to tell the person you’re lusting or loving that it’s you….There’s elements of that, I think, that are in Bloodflowers…that sense of love never ever being able to be perfect, like my constant desire for things to be just as they are, as they should be and for them always to be as they are, which is not how I want them to be.”

As the tracks progress on Bloodflowers, the illusory narrative of youth asserts itself before eventually withering into quiet acquiescence, delivering waves of the heart-melting pangs, tingles and thrills long synonymous with The Cure

“Out of This World” is the enchantingly woozy opener, immediately drawing us into a dreamy reverie no sane soul would ever want to crawl out from—even if we know we someday must. It captivated me the moment I first heard it 20 years ago and tranquilizes me still. As mentioned, I’ve come to comprehend the sage musings of Bloodflowers, but if this song was the album’s only treasure, I’d cling tight to it forever. And in many ways, that’s what this starry-eyed, wonder-filled intro is all about.

The escapist sentiments continue into the writhing odyssey of “Watching Me Fall,” which thrusts headlong into the expansive night with nocturnal seductions and terrors that would serve handsomely as the abstract to David Lynch’s next film. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the song takes place in Tokyo, which is where I chose to celebrate my 40th birthday. (Have I already mentioned how Smith is always way ahead of me?)

Although my take on Bloodflowers has shifted in the last few years, I can’t say I’ve warmed up to the album’s third and fourth tracks, “Where the Birds Always Sing” and “Maybe Someday.” However, Smith has noted the latter was included to add a little upbeat levity to an otherwise heavy record. Unsurprisingly, it was also the first promotional track for U.S. radio, which is telling, especially since Smith was adamant about not releasing any singles for Bloodflowers.

The remainder of the album showcases the breadth of The Cure’s songwriting talents, with songs like “The Last Day of Summer” and “There Is No If” evoking some of the band’s sweetest ‘80s B-sides. In fact, although the two flow together well, “There Is No If” was written in Smith’s adolescence, signifying a constancy in character despite his newfound perspective. I’m so glad this courageously simple tune about innocent love found the light of day, and revel in its placement between the solitary depleted spirit of “The Last Day of Summer” and the shared disillusionment of “The Loudest Sound.”

It’s been so long I can’t quite remember what I envisioned upon first hearing “The Loudest Sound,” but now I see a relationship that hasn’t run its course. Rather, it lives on in calm perpetuity. The couple have grown old together and care for each other deeply. The chimes are no longer bursting and the edge-of-the-world exhilaration is no more, but they both remember what those heart-racing moments were like together. And while the tenor of their connection has evolved, they’re still side by side, united by the commonality of their youth and the loneliness of aging. Despite the silence, his thoughts still manage to echo hers. When I was younger, I probably thought of these lyrics more in the vein of The Cure’s “Apart” (from Wish), but Smith’s ever-masterful words are well-suited to new interpretations.

As Bloodflowers approaches its end with the aforementioned “39” and the closing title track, it pushes past the acknowledgement of our individual finite capabilities into a greater spiritual understanding. The fire may indeed be almost out, but it’s better to accept that as part of life than to fight reality. 

Before Bloodflowers, the Cure trilogy consisted of their second, third and fourth albums— Seventeen Seconds (1980), Faith (1981) and Pornography (1982)—as they were created in close succession and thematically related. However, once Bloodflowers was completed, Smith reassessed the trilogy as Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers, citing these works as the three definitive achievements in the band’s career. I still wouldn’t say Bloodflowers is in my top three Cure albums, but I certainly have gained newfound appreciation in the last few years and see how it rounds out a story, for Smith the individual and the artist—and how the two are irrevocably intertwined.

Smith recalled, “When we were making it, everyone in the group believed that it would be the last Cure album because I wanted to have that sense of finality. There’s no point in making a record like Bloodflowers if you really think you’re going to do something else. I wanted it so that Bloodflowers would be so perfectly The Cure, there was no point in making another Cure album.”

The Cure

  • Robert Smith – guitar, keyboard, 6-string bass, vocals
  • Simon Gallup – bass
  • Perry Bamonte – guitar, 6-string bass
  • Jason Cooper – percussion, drums
  • Roger O’Donnell – keyboard

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