Doing The Unstuck: The Cure’s Wish Finally Gets Expanded

Digging into the band’s deluxe edition of their beloved 1992 LP

1992 Wish Tour poster (Image: eBay)

What do you when you create one of the great mope-pop masterpieces of the 20th Century?

If you’re Robert Smith, it’s time to get happy!  Or some approximation thereof – this is the bloody Cure we’re talking about. The period following 1989 Prayer Tour, which found the band playing to sold-out arenas across the United States, was one of relative stability and a musically fruitful one for Smith. In the throes of wedded bliss and sequestered away at his Sussex estate (the best that sad songs for black-clothed teens can buy), Smith would come up with some three-dozen demos and ideas for what would become Wish, the Cure’s ninth studio album. Many of these would be a direct reaction to the crushing, atmospheric depression of Disintegration. Though no strangers to ebullient pop songs – 1987’s double-album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me has many of their happiest (and horniest!) moments – Smith’s newfound love and stability almost certainly impacted the direction of his writing. There were few songs as bright and weightless in the Cure’s catalog to this point as singles “High” and the ubiquitous “Friday I’m In Love.”

This 30th anniversary deluxe edition is a curious (I’m very sorry) collection. Neither a complete emptying of the vaults nor a simple compilation of b-sides and remixes, this three-disc compendium acts best as an insight into Smith’s songwriting process. Containing 24 previously unreleased tracks (including instrumental demos of 9 never-before-released songs), one can trace the development of the album that Smith had in his mind and also contemplate what could have been.

 

VIDEO: The Cure “Friday I’m In Love”

First, the newly remastered version of the album is far less muddy than the original mix. Smith has long been critical of the sound of the original record and his oversight of the remastered album comes across as more of a remix – the bass is noticeably boosted and there is a separation between the instruments that makes for a very different listening experience. Smith and Pearl (here Porl) Thompson’s guitars ping and growl in ways that were otherwise buried in the previous mix. For someone who knows this album like the back of their hand, it can be a bit disorienting. That said, this new mix definitely deepens the gulf between the “happy” songs and the darker ones. “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”, the album’s centerpiece and its best song, is less grinding and more anxiety-inducing by amplifying Simon Gallup’s bassline. Conversely, “Wendy Time” (a song which arguably should have been relegated to a B-side) is rendered as the useless funk workout it is and ends up feeling more weightless than ever. If Smith means this to be the definitive version of the record, it’s going to take die-hard Cure fans a minute to wrap their brains around it, especially if played on high-end headphones.  

The bonus tracks are largely an interesting mix of full band and solo demos. Instead of including the B-sides to the singles from the record, we’re treated to the 1990 full-band demos of these songs. I have to imagine that this is a result of the original versions being included on the band’s 2004 odds n’ sods collection Join the Dots, but it makes for a strange exclusion given that songs like fan-favorite “The Big Hand” and “This Twilight Garden” are as good as anything that made the record and largely unheard by all but the band’s biggest devotees. Of interest, however, is that these demos are representative of the very brief period between the sacking of on-again, off-again keyboardist Roger O’Donnell and the full integration of touring member Perry Bamonte into the band as a full-fledged part of the group. This means that the demos are largely devoid of the keys that would flesh out the released version versions, lending them a more aggressive edge.  

The Cure Wish, Elektra Records 1992

The real incentive here for Cure completists are the many unreleased (and in some cases unfinished) demos of songs that both made the album in altered form and were wisely excluded. It’s odd that something as grand and seemingly fully-formed as “T8” wasn’t a serious contender for record or relegated to a b-side, and it’s equally as understandable that the aggro, bass-heavy “Heart Attack” and the sax-assisted “Frogfish” would feel completely out of place on a record like Wish. Overall, the instrumental demos offer less a view of a “path not taken” than a clearing of the cobwebs before refining the songs that did make the track list.  

Additionally the presence of “Lost Wishes”, the instrumental compendium that was released on cassette and only available to members of the band’s fan club, is a welcome addition. The songs are all uniformly excellent and one is left to imagine an alternate timeline where these four instrumentals were compiled with top-shelf b-sides like “Halo”, “The Big Hand”, “Play” and “This Twilight Garden” into a compelling second, standalone mini-album. Alas, that’s not how Smith’s brain works. At the very least, it is nice to have this curio (again, so sorry) more widely available. 

 

VIDEO: The Cure “High”

With the cupboards cleared and the anniversary for the maligned Wild Mood Swings still a few years off, here’s hoping that the long-gestating Songs Of A Lost World sees release in 2023. Perhaps Smith might even be convinced to release the shelved 4:14 Scream album that was to see release in 2010. 

It never hurts to dream, but as evidenced by both the 14 year wait (and counting) between albums and Smith’s focus on celebrating past triumphs we Cure fans may be left with nothing more to do than wish for impossible things. 

 

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One thought on “Doing The Unstuck: The Cure’s Wish Finally Gets Expanded

  • January 5, 2023 at 12:59 am
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    Awesome recap. Ive always said and asked. That if you were in a deserted island and you could take 1 cd with you, what would it be..for me its wish. Its got everything you would want.. saw the eu 2022 tour and the new songs are well worth the wait… waiting for a 2023 us tour.. good job on thia piece..
    Gio

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