After more than 20 years of gloom, The Cure has been gradually acknowledged as one of the most influential forefathers of alternative rock: Many of today's stars were yesterday's shy bedroom Goths, receiving guidance through Robert Smith's depressive opuses, and the group has been slathered with cultish devotion throughout its career, even when critical praise has been tentative at best. Finality is a recurring theme for Smith; he's always singing about ending a relationship, his life, and in many cases his band. Sadly, after a surprising run of impressive albums, The Cure might have missed its chance to quit gracefully. Wish (1992) was one of the group's strongest albums—teetering on the edge of hope and despair—and it conveniently concluded with a song called "End," but the band survived yet another of Smith's numerous break-up threats. Too bad, as 1996's Wild Mood Swings was the group's most erratic album since 1984's The Top, an uneven exercise in eccentricity hurt by the absence of drummer Boris Williams, an integral part of The Cure's sound since its pop breakthrough with The Head On The Door. Wild Mood Swings' failure must have disappointed Smith, as well, as Bloodflowers returns to the harrowing and hypnotic territory of Pornography and Disintegration. (Smith claims it's the conclusion of a trilogy.) The album does seem to pick up where Disintegration left off, offering long, casually cathartic songs driven by minor chords and loopy, languid drones. "One last time before it's over," Smith sings on "Out Of This World," which serves as a sort of sequel to Disintegration's elegiac "Untitled." But Smith isn't going out without a fight, as the 11-minute "Watching Me Fall" immediately attests. Bloodflowers remains predictably dark, but the album has its bright qualities: The band has subtly integrated electronic elements, and Smith's songwriting is (relatively) less dirge-like than in the past. (Acoustic guitars help.) Though songs like "Where The Birds Always Sing," "Maybe Someday," and the title track each exceed five minutes, they revel in trippy psychedelia and melodious melancholia, rendering the album diverse but not unfocused. But by the time the dour disc gets around to "Bloodflowers," the question of finality still lingers: Is the album's lasting message "never die" or "always fade, always die"? Only Smith, who's working on his solo debut, knows for sure, but Bloodflowers makes for a heck of a break-up album. Let's see if Smith takes his own cue.