The Cure’s ninth album Wish could have been very different. The thirtieth anniversary deluxe edition and the Join the Dots compilation allow us to make ourselves a version of what might have been
I wasn’t a massive fan of The Cure’s Wish. It was okay but it wasn’t a patch on the previous studio album Disintegration.
I was 16 when Disintegration was released in 1989. The Cure were my favourite band. Disintegration was my favourite record until that point. It was a massive record in every way.
It sold in massive quantities, which was somewhat surprising for a record that Chris Roberts described as being “as much fun as losing a limb” in his Melody Maker review. He was wrong, of course. Disintegration is beautiful and epic and filled with love songs. That’s gonna move some units.
The Cure’s burgeoning popularity resulted in a string of live dates and tours and a quickly released follow-up in the shape of 1990’s Mixed Up. The Cure were evolving at pace. Disintegration had taken the sound of epic Cure as far as it could go and Mixed Up hinted at a new way forward. Surely it was time to double down on dance?
But for some reason, they didn’t.
By the time Wish arrived it was 1992. The game had been changed during 1991 with a string of groundbreaking records. From the soaring beauty of Future Sound of London’s ‘Papua New Guinea’ to Human Resource’s WTFWT ‘Dominator’. From Loveless to Yerself is Steam; from Screamadelica to Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld; from Laughing Stock to Nevermind; and all the way to Blue Lines to and The Low End Theory. Groundbreaking albums were all over the place. Suddenly, a fairly good Cure album just seemed like old hat.
The Cure had always been fairly on top of technological advancements. Pornography used extensive sampling techniques back in 1982. The singles compiled on Japanese Whispers in 1983 showed The Cure were not afraid to dance.
Until that point, The Cure looked like they could take on anything from pure pop to dark psychedelia, from punk-funk to indie pop and hard rock. And that was just on Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. Robert Smith even used to cut his hair from time to time. We did not know it then but Wish marked the beginning of The Cure just being The Cure and pretty much staying the same Cure forever more.
Thirty years on
At the tail-end of last year, The Cure released a deluxe thirtieth anniversary deluxe edition of Wish, which gave a glimpse of an alternative album.
The Cure amassed a huge amount of new material during the recording of Wish. There were thoughts about releasing a double album, with one of them filled with instrumentals. Some of the instrumentals were released later on the limited cassette-only Lost Wishes, and now included on the deluxe edition.
Robert Smith was in an unusually democratic mood during the making of Wish, letting the band vote on the final running order. They voted for an album of wild mood swings, with the pure pop of ‘Friday, I’m in Love’ and the stolid indie pop of ‘High’ sitting next to the darker wah wah-led rock material. It wasn’t a great leap forward and its songs just weren’t as good as those on Disintegration or Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me.
It has some good songs though. And in addition to the instrumentals, there are some minor classics to be found on the singles’ b-sides (also available on the Join The Dots compilation).
So here’s an alternative Wish. I have included four of those b-sides and four of the instrumentals. It deletes ‘Friday I’m in Love’, which is a lovely song IMHO but might have been better as a standalone single. I always thought ‘High’ was desperately average and was very disappointed when it came out as the taster single for the album. ‘Wendy Time’ is also excised to bring a more consistent mood to the album.
The result is, I think, a more cohesive album. Like Disintegration, it gives you a warm hug. Slightly warmer than Disintegration maybe, if less intense. It still might have disappointed back in 1992 but 30 years on, without the context of forward momentum all around, it makes for a very nice album indeed.
It would seem churlish not to open with the track that began the original WIsh. Not only is it appropriately named but it also means the album starts with the kind of aggressive guitar sound that opened Pornography, The Top and Kiss Me.
The b-side of ‘Friday, I’m in Love’ lightens the mood a bit in the style of ‘Catch’ from Kiss Me. It is a dizzy, lovely love song without the cheese of its a-side. “I want to keep this feeling deep inside of me, I want you always in my heart, You are everything, You are everything,” sighs our hero and it’s hard not to swoon along with him.
A Letter to Elise
The best single from Wish and the best song from the original album. Letter to Elise is another swoon of a love song, which could have graced any of The Cure’s previous four albums.
Originally an extra b-side on the single ‘High’, ‘Play’ is a return to the epic sound of Disintegration with a lovely cascading bass sound. Warning: there are a lot of lovely cascading sounds on this album.
Cloudberry (Dim-D Mix)
Here’s one of the instrumentals from Lost Wishes. As a standalone track, it might not excite much but its cascading melodies extend the mood of the previous track nicely.
A Foolish Arrangement
The b-side of ‘A Letter to Elise’ continues the cascades but with a bit more urgency, upping the pace before…
The epic ‘Apart’ is really a continuation of the mood of Disintegration, sweeping synths, a gentle plod of drums, a heartbreaking organ melody and a whispering Bob Smith telling a story of doomed lovers. It’s a great Cure record. (“But we have heard it before,” says my 1992 self.)
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
This was one of the stronger tracks on the original Wish and sounds a bit like an attempt to recreate the intensity of Disintegration, the song. It doesn’t succeed but hell, what does?
Doing the Unstuck
Some might find it odd I’m including this piece of throwaway pop on here but it’s a good song. It lightens the mood without destroying it. A similar sound to ‘Push’ from The Head on the Door. ‘Let’s get happy!’ sings Smith with something approaching gay abandon. As with all The Cure’s better songs, it’s almost impossible not to be drawn into his mood. Perhaps the secret to The Cure’s popularity. No matter the mood, it’s difficult not to get drawn into Robert’s world.
“Kick out the blues, Tear out the pages with all the bad news, Pull down the mirrors and pull down the walls, Tear up the stairs and tear up the floors, And just burn down the house! Burn down the street!”
The Twilight Garden
The b-side of the inferior ‘High’, this is Smith once again in lost love territory. He does it well…incredibly well for one who has retained the same girlfriend since his teenage years.
To Wish Impossible Things
This is one of the stronger songs from the original album. It acted as a swansong on the original and ushers in a gentle final third on this version. Nice viola. Lovely bass. This is kinda the title track, right?
Robert has described this as one of the very best Cure songs and maybe he’s right. A lovely piano refrain circles beautifully before one of those glistening cymbal flourishes ushers in the rest of the band. Cue sweeping synths, a gently strumming guitar and Robert declaring “There is no-one left in the world at all that I can hold on to.” I mean, really. What more do you need? Sigh…
Off to Sleep (Dim-D Mix) and The Three Sisters (Dim-D Mix)
More of the Lost Wishes instrumentals. ‘Off to Sleep’ is reminiscent of ‘Kyoto Song’ from The Head on The Door. A waterfall, an oriental chime. It lightens the mood a bit before ‘The Three Sisters’ darkens it with an instrumental cousin of ‘Fascination Street’.
‘The Three Sisters’ is the perfect intro for the original closer to Wish and ‘End’ basically performs the same function here – it ends the record. But for me, it cuts the mood a bit too soon. So, we have one more…
Uyea Sound (Dim-D-Mix)
…instrumental, which brings the album to a more gentle close with waves gently lapping the shore. Lovely.