Muy Curiosa!

In case you haven't heard -- which would be quite unfortunate at this point -- the carpet's been pulled from this year's Lollapalooza tour, causing its last legs to crumble under the weight of mounting costs. Apparently, the tour's not profitable when the lineup is actually good (this year's tour would have brought both Morrissey and the Pixies). So it was a bit of providence that the Cure decided to organize its own tour, the Curiosa Festival 2004, and share the stage with Interpol, the Rapture, Mogwai, and other bands of their choice.

Try they might have, but the Cure just couldn't call it quits. After repeated past declarations that the band would retire, vocalist Robert Smith and company are fresh on the heels of a new full-length, The Cure. Of course, releasing an eponymously titled album at this stage in the game seems suspect, as if indicative of something. It probably is the Cure's swan song, but it's a good note to end on. While the video for the new single, "The End of the World," shows the same forlorn front man that gave the group its signature image, the music throughout The Cure is considerably less sullen than the band's previous effort, Bloodflowers. Indeed, the new disc mixes pop and mope. And it's obvious the album was recorded recently; the guitar and drum sounds are often more reminiscent of Cure-influenced bands than of the Cure itself.

One such band the Cure influenced is New York's Interpol, with its sullen, mid-tempo drones akin to the Cure's old peers Joy Division. There isn't much cheer to be found on Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights album, save for the upbeat ditty "Say Hello to the Angels." More typical are brooding observational tunes like "NYC." Quite a different shade of post-punk than the Rapture.

Sure, it's common to compare the Rapture to those jangly politico punks of yesteryear, Gang of Four. But damn, it's a good comparison -- musically, anyway. Though absent Gang of Four's fiery, left-wing rhetoric, the Rapture is cut from the same rhythmic mold, merging the theoretically polar opposites of punk and disco and adding some electronics to the mix. Take a listen to the band's 2003 album Echoes. After opening with "Olio," a mellow piece of piano and synthesizer, the album blasts into "Heaven," afterward mostly settling into dance-punk mode.

In sharp contrast to the Rapture's jagged dynamics are the mellow, atmospheric orchestrations of Mogwai. The Scottish space rockers are a good dose more cerebral than their harder-rocking tourmates, using more than just guitar and drums to create their unique sound. Let's hope this translates well into an outdoor show. Even so, the day's other acts -- Thursday, Auf der Maur (see this week's Music section), the Cooper Temple Clause, and Head Automatica -- bring plenty of musical variety to the table that you'd be loath to miss. And it could be the last chance you'll get to see the Cure, because the band is probably bidding adieu. Let's see how many boys don't cry after that happens. -- Jason Budjinski

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