Why ‘Wish’ is the underdog album from The Cure’s discography

Why ‘Wish’ is the underdog album from The Cure’s discography

Robert Smith
Words by James Robertson

The LP touches on everything from ’80s pop to pure goth-rock.

Often overlooked in favour of The Cure’s more well-known releases, Wish is a hidden gem that expertly showcases both the goth-rockers’ poppiest produce and their most heartbreaking tracks. There’s far more to this epic release than just their highest charting single, the vivaciously lampooned ‘Friday I’m In Love’. If anything, this singalong single is just one stroke of genius among many.

The making of Wish came during a transitional time for the Crawley natives. They’d just come from touring their biggest album at the time, 1989’s Disintegration, which saw frontman Robert Smith swing from the quirky, new-wave pop the band had been producing for most of the decade to dish out a slow-burning LP brimming with homesickness and desolation.

Soon after, the band were hit with a lawsuit from former drummer and keyboardist Lol Tolhurst who wanted royalties from ‘The Cure’ name. This, along with a massive world tour, was the backdrop to the making of Wish.

To some, it’s seen as a return to the pop sensibilities of The Head on the Door and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. But really, it’s a fusion between Disintegration’s darkest moments and a playfulness that Smith had recaptured in the years after the album’s creation.

Kicking off with the slinking, vast sounds of ‘Open’, the album begins with Smith rehashing a boozy night out which soon turns into a revelatory call for help as he cries “Who am I/Why I’m keeping this going”. He darts from laughing to singing in an erratic state, putting on a happy face while he’s falling apart; “That’s how I feel inside,” Smith croons at the close of the track.

The contrast between a depressing but danceable instrumental and masking one’s pain for others sums up Wish as a whole. It’s an album of shifting moods and emotions, whirling around from one feeling to the next as though we were inside Smith’s mind.

Ensuing tracks ‘High’ and ‘Apart’ demonstrate this further. The former details Smith’s desire to at least try to be as high as a kite, while the latter laments how quickly intimacy can fade. These two songs show Smith’s changing perspective on human interaction, wishing he could be like others while still retaining his voyeuristic, outsider viewpoint.

In the monumental ‘From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea’, the longest song on the album, these two views battle it out, manifesting in a dual conversation between a warring couple. “Wave after wave”, these lovers repeat their issues over and over again. As Smith says “I’ll lie to keep her happy”, it becomes apparent the closed-off version of him we see in ‘Open’ has returned. This Robert Smith would rather withhold the truth on how he truly feels than risk exposing himself to others.

The rest of the album follows a similar pattern of dichotomy. Live staple ‘Doing the Unstuck’ touts the LP’s most positive moment with the line “Let’s get happy”, Smith’s call to throw away the misgivings of the past. And it seems to work. Directly afterwards, the listener is hit with the most familiar, radio-friendly track, ‘Friday I’m In Love’. With its catchy lyrics and sunny guitar licks, it’s the happiest song in The Cure’s arsenal and immediately uplifts the listener.

But this joy is fleeting and temporal. ‘Trust’, the sequel to ‘Friday I’m In Love’, depicts an unwillingness to trust in a relationship. It’s a tearful track elicited with even more sadness through crushing piano and a forlorn delivery from Smith.

This is how Wish works. Flipping from light elation to debilitating mourning, the album has come to represent the band’s shift from pure goth-rock to ‘80s pop. Most of all, it’s an album about the tangible nature of hope; how your wishes can be dashed in the blink of an eye and how, sometimes, a wish is all you can live for.