From Prince to Morrissey to that interestingly coiffed, long-running champion of gloom and doom Robert Smith, this has been the summer of '80s pop heroes issuing new discs that serve primarily as anemic imitations of the best sounds from their past.

The Cure's 13th album overall and first new recording since the quickly forgotten "Bloodflowers" (2000) is clearly intended to stand as a summation of the group's career, hence the unimaginative title. Produced by nu-metal veteran Ross Robinson, it finds Smith and his current batch of hired hands touching upon the guitar-heavy gothic drones of their earliest days ("Labyrinth"), the lighter romantic pop of their mid period ("Taking Off") and assorted detours into more danceable grooves while Smith, ever the hopeless romantic, delivers his usual mix of angst and misery in the lyrics.

"You want me to cry and play my part," Bob sings in "The End of the World. "I want you to sigh and fall apart." Sigh indeed.

With bands such as the Rapture coming on strong as part of the so-called new wave of new wave, for better or worse, the influence of the Cure is being heard loud and clear on the current rock scene. But the fact is that the band's young imitators have done a better job of aping what was good about the group -- particularly during its "Pornography" and "Disintegration" eras -- than the gloomy old boys themselves.

Jim DeRogatis




With their natty matching uniforms, a frontman who evokes the young Malcolm McDowell, an energy level that borders on amphetamine-fueled insanity and an amusing shtick that finds them scoffing at the music business even as they're embraced by one of its biggest labels, it's easy to see why the Hives have shouldered past many of their peers to become one of the most-hyped and touted contenders in the new wave of garage rockers. But beyond those appealing attributes -- which all work better live than on album -- there really isn't much to distinguish the Swedish quintet.

The Hives' third album, the eagerly awaited follow-up to "Your New Favourite Band," breaks no new ground and contains no surprises; it's just more of the same rip-roaring, exhaust-scented garage rock that the group gave us on its last two outings. This isn't a bad thing -- the Hives do it well indeed -- it just isn't anything you haven't heard before, whether you reach back to the famous "Nuggets" compilation of '60s garage heroes, or quickly survey the current garage scene.

At least the members of New York's Mooney Suzuki tried something different on their major-label debut, the follow-up to "Electric Sweat" (2002). Flush with those corporate dollars, the group recruited in-demand bubble-gum producers the Matrix (the secret behind Avril Lavigne's ascendancy, not to mention Liz Phair's recent success) and wound up with a glossy and exquisitely well-recorded but surprisingly vital and unfussy version of their R&B-flavored garage growl.

Again, "Alive & Amplified" is nothing you haven't heard before, and as the title suggests, the music is more satisfying onstage than blaring from your Discman. But in the current battle of the garage bands, the Americans have edged out the foreign competition.

Jim DeRogatis

Note: The Hives will perform July 26 at Metro.