After the relatively straightforward pop of Wish, the Cure moved back toward stranger, edgier territory with Wild Mood Swings. Actually, that's only part of the truth. As the title suggests, there's a vast array of textures and emotions on Wild Mood Swings, from the woozy mariachi lounge horns of "The 13th" to the perfect pop of "Mint Car" and the monolithic dirge of "Want." In between the extremes, Robert Smith and the Cure -- which now feature a radically reworked lineup, with several key players from Wish now missing -- explore some simpler territory, from contemplative acoustic numbers tinged with strings to swooning neo-psychedelia. But what ties it all together is conviction -- Smith sounds more content than he ever has, but he sings with more passion than he has for a number of years. Of course, the Cure haven't significantly changed their sound -- tinny synthesizers and guitar effects that haven't appeared on an album since 1988 are in abundance throughout the record -- but the variety of sounds and strength of performance offers enough surprises to make Wild Mood Swings more than just another Cure record.
There are film directors -- Woody Allen comes to mind -- who score their movies simply by rooting around in their record collections for some of their favorite tunes. It's what one might suspect of director Tim Hamilton upon listening to the soundtrack album for his movie Mama's Boy. The tracks here tend to either actually be British punk rock and new wave tracks of the late '70s and early '80s or songs in the same styles. The Jam get three selections to add to familiar tracks by Generation X and the English Beat, while Scanners' 2006 copyright "Low Life" has a distinct Cure/Waterboys feel. Billy Bragg's two songs sound exactly like Billy Bragg songs of the '80s, as he sings savagely critical politically charged lyrics in his cockney accent over his furiously strummed electric guitar accompaniment, but it turns out both are new songs written by Mark Mothersbaugh and the screenwriter, Hank Nelken. Mothersbaugh, the former Devo leader, is the actual film composer here, the album ending with nine minutes' worth of his eclectic, understated background music. That's one more tie to the sound that dominates the album.
Twenty outtakes recorded for Stax between 1960 and 1968, a number of which are gems. In fact, it is really surprising just how good the unreleased Stax stuff was in the '60s. "Loneliness," "Sweet Sensation," and "It Ain't No Easy Thing" all could have been superb singles.