1 KASIM 2004: FINANCIAL TIMES
The Cure for icon status
By Malini Guha

No, I don't wear black at home," says Robert Smith, who has a well-known penchant for fibbing during interviews.

"I wear Hawaiian shirts, polka dots in bed, when I dress at all - I don't wear clothes at home.

"Smith is amused by the idea of being interviewed by the FT. But, says the 45-year-old frontman of The Cure: "I'm a very good businessman, I just don't look it." And indeed, Smith has wielded control over his band's long career like a company chief executive.

Last night the band's longevity was acknowledged when they were given an MTV Icon award. It also underlined their recent resurgence, leading to a new album that went into the top 10 in charts around the world, supported by singles including the aptly named "Taking Off".Smith has led his band to sell 27m albums worldwide, and has done it on his own terms, without yielding to commercial pressures. The Cure never followed anyone else in either sound or style, instead creating a genre all of their own: not straight rock, alternative, goth, punk or pop, but combining all of them."Most bands have consumers, but The Cure have fans," said Marilyn Manson at the MTV Icon tribute show. Also offering praise at the show were artists ranging from The Deftones to Alicia Keys. "A lot of [those] people would be hard pressed to name three Cure songs, really, or sing one line, but they are aware of what we represent," says Smith in his disarming, self-effacing manner. But he doesn't take the tag of "icon" very seriously. That un-pop-like modesty could be something to do with his parents, who were at the recording of the MTV show. "My mum still tells me off - I do listen to her, that's even weirder," he laughs.Dismissed by many as "that 80s band - are they still alive?" The Cure's new "definitive" album forcefully reminds people who they are. It features two sides of them: the familiar tunes such as "Friday I'm in Love", and a more emotional, often angst-ridden side. But while still drawn to the darker, heavier material, Smith wanted to make the album accessible and so he left out some particularly sad songs. Nevertheless, it is classic Cure.Smith has clearly mellowed: that sadness "doesn't inform my being or way of life like it used to when I was young." Two decades ago, he was making albums while taking drugs and not caring if he lived or died. Now, "life is hugely enjoyable for me because I've been able to do what I wanted to do".But Smith has largely kept away from the politics that engage other bands from the same era such as U2 and REM. "The 'Vote for Change' tour with REM in America, it's like a preaching-to-the-converted kind of tour." And on a more basic level, Smith says: "I like the music to exist beyond the time and place we make it. If I'm qualified to stay anything politically, I should say it outside the medium of pop music."As we part, the older, wiser Smith is heading home for his mother's birthday. He smiles, saying: "When I was younger the notion of a family weekend would have been an anathema to me, but now it's really nice."