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Book Review: Wild Mood Swings: Disintegrating The Cure Album by Album

Release Date: May 26, 2023

When you think of music that’s gloomy, bleak, and moody, The Cure often springs to mind. While they have no shortage of songs that perfectly fit the bill, there’s more to their discography than darkness and despair. There’s the oh-so-madly in love with love Cure that makes for pop song perfection, the wild, trippy version that’s not afraid of a little experimentation, and the funky side that just wants to dance, shout, and howl. The Cure’s wide-ranging discography is explored and analyzed in Martin Popoff’s latest book Wild Mood Swings: Disintegrating The Cure Album by Album.

All of The Cure’s studio albums are dissected by Popoff and a panel of music critics culled from his and Marco D’Auria’s YouTube channel The Contrarians. They’re also Cure fans. Gathering fans together to discuss a beloved band runs the risk of turning conversations into an absolute love fest. While they do discuss what they like about The Cure, they’re not shy about casting a critical eye on the band’s discography, highlighting the low points, songs that don’t hold up, and albums that don’t show The Cure at their finest.

The most interesting conversations see them touch on things like the band’s sonic evolution, Robert Smith’s thematic songwriting, and how the varying lineups affect the band’s sound. Sometimes the conversations are nostalgic – reminiscing about first discovering the band or seeing them live for the first time – while others are fun, with questions like which Cure album you’d want on a desert island. Oftentimes, their pointed observations offer new perspectives on popular albums or underrated songs, like how The Top paved the way for the pop songs the band would craft later on or how Rick Rubin brought out untapped anger on The Cure. These discussions are thought-provoking, interesting, and just a good time. It’s a joy to read the opinions, stories, and theories of the various panelists. Sometimes you’ll agree with them, sometimes you won’t, but at least they offer you a new way to think about these records.

With 13 albums to get through, the conversations are short, rushed even. They only span a few pages before moving on to the next record. On the one hand, you don’t want to overwhelm the reader with too much information, but this makes discussions feel incomplete. You’re left wanting more. Some discussions are just getting started when it’s time to move on. The differing number of panelists featured in each chapter adds to the frustration. Some feature three of the eight. Others have two. Others will have five. This skews conversations a bit since it’s not presenting varying viewpoints, especially when discussing divisive Cure albums like Bloodflowers. Here we have two critics who consider it an underrated gem, yet a critic featured in a previous chapter who stated their dislike of the album was not included. Leaving room for more people to present their thoughts, whether opposing or not, would add to the discussion and make for a more satisfying read.

Despite its minor issues, Wild Mood Swings: Disintegrating The Cure Album by Album, is a loving and critical look at the band’s rich discography made by the fans for the fans. Though conversations are brief, and the book overall is quite short, it’s still an enjoyable read. Even the few grammatical errors spotted don’t hinder the reading experience. The witty observations and critiques offer new and interesting perspectives about the band and their music. You may even walk away with new ways to think about these well-loved albums. At the very least, you’ll want to play your favorite Cure record once the book ends.

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Book Review: Wild Mood Swings: Disintegrating The Cure Album by Album
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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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