Reading about this album, it’s absolutely incredible how much ink was spilled over Robert Smith’s involvement. Even though it sounds like the Banshees (much more than the Cure) and even though Smith’s involvement in the songwriting is not explicitly laid out (perhaps because of this), the critics of the time attribute basically everything they like about this record to Smith. I find that utterly bizarre and indicative of both the sexism of the music industry and the obsession within that industry of treating certain celebrities a certain way. (If Siouxsie Sioux had joined the Cure, how much ink would have been spilled hypothesizing as to how much she dominating the songwriting and recording process.) None of this has anything to do with the music here, but I just found it interesting and, well, typical.
This is a pretty strong set of songs, regardless of the extent of Smith’s involvement, though I do not buy that it’s an obviously superior set because of Smith’s involvement. I find myself constantly measuring everything they did to JuJu and I’m not sure this holds up. But some of that is probably because I have not spent enough time listening to it.
I must say that John McGeoch is a personal favourite guitarist of mine so, even though Smith is a fine replacement, I find myself missing his distinct style of playing. But Smith does a fine job, and fits into their sound (on both guitar keyboards) enough that I’m not sure too many of us would have noticed if his involvement wasn’t so publicized. (I am a person who doesn’t think Smith’s style is that distinct compared to some.) The use of the orchestra on the title track is a new touch for them (I think) and it’s a good one.
I’ve read some comments about the dated production but I must say that I consistently find the Banshees embraced ’80s production in a way that worked, that complemented their music and never feels forced or “contemporary” to me. They have their distinctive sound on this record as they always do.
I like this record but I don’t love it. I’m not sure if I just need more time of if I just prefer the earlier version of the band to the extent that I’m never going to love their mid or late ’80s records. But if you’re a fan of the band, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.