It's been more than 30 years since Robert Smith cast himself as new wave's Melancholy Dane, and in all that time—a few half-hearted yawns aside—the song has remained the same: maudlin, yearning, and consumed by adolescent romanticism rooted in wish-fulfillment. While the real Smith is a happily married, financially secure, artistically satisfied man approaching 50, the Smith of his songs is still a teenager locked in his room, burning with inconsolable intensity over the unfairness of the outside world and mooning over that one idealized love he'll die without. At this point, Smith's only capacity to surprise would be to abandon all that and craft a summertime jam about hanging with his homies.
Though it's billed as the "upbeat" side of The Cure's abandoned double record (the "dark" half is being saved for a future release), 4:13 Dream hardly constitutes Smith's bid for the backyard barbecue. It's just him as radio-ready romantic, walking the line between swooning and self-flagellation first perfected on The Head On The Door, and foregoing gray-hued slow burns in favor of arsenic-laced pop songs. And while it's too familiar to be revelatory, it's invigorating all the same. In recent releases, mere mood has usurped memorable melodies, but the lipstick-smeared sigh "The Only One," bitter-but-far-more-sweet "The Perfect Boy," and brightly buoyant "This. Here And Now. With You"—all Smith at his most starry-eyed and sentimental—are the most essential Cure tracks since Wish. Elsewhere, Smith smirks at his gothic legacy ("I won't try to bring you down about my suicide / If you promise not to sing about the reasons why"), flirts with his raven-haired fan base on the feral "The Real Snow White," and gets fed up with his own morose MO on "Switch" ("I'm sick of being alone with myself"). Braced by Porl Thompson's wah-wah guitar squalls on "The Scream" and "It's Over," Smith sounds like he's clawing his way out of a self-pitying funk—and even though another one is always around the corner, it's good to know he still has some fight left.