From lightless depths to the dizziest heights, the Cure have always traded in extremes. Albums careen from genre to genre, capturing a wider, stranger range of emotions than most other bands could dream of. Starting with a nervous post-punk twitch that led to the existential freeze of their pioneering goth trilogy, the band would flit from one style to another, reinventing itself along the way, dabbling with dense, heady psychedelia and going for broke with glistening, giddy jangle-pop — and a million shades of light in between. Robert Smith — with his big, overwhelming, infectious emotions — has proven himself a brilliant songsmith in just about every sense that counts: At their peak, the Cure sold millions of records, raked in hits, and steadily built a devoted following around the world. The glory years may be a glimmer in the rearview, but the Cure still release solid new material every few years, and hey, they can still fill a stadium.
Fortunately for us, the Cure don’t really make bad albums, not by normal standards. At their worst, they’re merely strange — interesting diversions rather than life-changing experiences. At their best, they’re fucking brilliant. It’s hard to picture a band more evocative of unique textures and emotions than the Cure; the songs practically exist outside of time. There’s an intoxicating, tangible strangeness at work — the atmosphere sets you up for the hooks, which open the door for the lyrics to work their way inside your head. Listening, you’re pulled into a glimmering, twilit dreamscape: someplace imaginary, but almost real; the kind of place you’ve always known but never seen. The songs feel so specific and personal it’s hard to believe they work on such a universal level, but therein lies the magic.
Since releasing Wish in 1992, the Cure have kept to a steady schedule, putting out a new record every four years without fail. The last record came out in 2008 … and here we are in 2012. Sadly, there’s no definitive word about a projected release date for the 14th Cure record, reported to be the second half of 4:13 Dream. In the meantime, let’s pull up the carpet and see what shakes out as we look back through the catalog of one of the most brilliant bands of all time. These are the albums of the Cure, from worst to best. Start the Countdown here; start your case for Wild Mood Swings in the comments.