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The Cure
4:13 Dream John Doran , October 27th, 2008 13:34

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The Cure - 4:13 Dream

Go online and find a 'Cure Random Lyric Generator'. Hit go. Collate all of the words and phrases that it throws up. 'Poison', 'scream', 'can't sleep', 'can't wake up', 'voices in my head', 'this is fucking torture', 'a blind man pushing nettles in my ears'. Good. You have now written your own review of their new album, 4:13 Dream.

This is not to say that it is a bad album in terms of song writing, ambition, intensity or giving fans exactly what they want. It's just that the production stinks worse than a fourteen-year-old's wank sock after a rainy bank holiday weekend in Southport. Perhaps anyone who loves post punk's biggest success story (and I do) shouldn't be surprised at their bi-polar lurch from extreme to extreme. Are they a pop band? Are they alt rock stadium fillers? Are they post rock grand fathers? Are they manic depressive gothic ghouls? But this latest smudged make-over has been both unnecessary and ill-conceived. Lots of people, even hardcore fans, hated Ross Robinson's production job on their last, self-titled album in 2004 but the truth of the matter is that generally it was the song writing that was at fault - bilge like 'The End Of The World' just didn't cut it. When the authorship stood up to scrutiny like on the tar black Massive Attack themed 'Anniversary', then so did the production.

On this, their 13th album it is the over-ambitious knob-twiddling, rather than any other consideration, that has let the album down. And the culprits acting like children in a sweet shop, slathering absolutely everything in FX and over compression are Robert Smith himself and Keith Uddin. But really they could have dragged the guy who sleeps on the roundabout near my house down to the studio, given him loads of ketamine and strapped boxing gloves on him and he would have done a better job.

Things start off well-enough with 'Underneath The Stars'. There is that crystalline glissando (that they half-inched from Joy Division's 'Atmosphere', originally for 'Love Song') and sepulchral bass clangor from Simon Gallup and an almost instantaneously overwhelming rush of psychedelic guitar noise. But so much back masked echo has been added to Smith's voice that it immediately becomes distracting. It is as if to re-enforce the fact that Bob feels a bit like a ghost, they've used exactly the same effect on his vocals that a Hollywood studio would use to indicate that the really pale child on the other side of the mirror is actually a ghost and will not stop being terrifying the protagonists until they find his body in the bricked-up cellar and give it a proper burial. But this is a touch too literal. When you feel a bit ghostly, you don't actually take on the physical attributes of a spectre. Or maybe Robert Smith did. Maybe he sang this song with his head under his arm while walking through walls.

If the opening song is in the style of 'The Kiss' then the second is in the style of that other sort of Cure song - the paean to the drunken gothic girl at a party, lips stained crimson with red wine bouncing off the walls and how she makes Big Bob feel all happy inside. Basically it is in the style of 'Catch' or 'Perfect Girl'. (Their other sort of song, obviously, is about when the drink and drugs wear off and Bob wakes up on the floor next to the same girl and how terrible this makes him feel.) This time it's called 'The Only One' and I can't be the only one who thought they'd already done a song called this. (Ditto 'The Scream'.) There's another style of song on show here as well, the one about going mad at a party on drugs before he's met the gothic girl. This is called 'Freakshow' and would have benefitted from the crisp pop approach of 'Six Different Ways' or the straight up rock attack of 'Never Enough'.

But by the time you get to the fifth track, 'Siren Song' you start realising what a punishing experience listening to this album is. The Cure have been around for so long, they shouldn't be falling into such basic traps as overdoing the compression. You shouldn't feel like you have to take a nap half way through an album. To some people it will feel like they are being immersed in the song; that its very fibres are wrapping round the listener. To me it sounds like I'm in a nightclub and just about to be sick. Ironically, this is what The Cure actually sound like to some people - gusty festival winds blowing their sound left and right, distorted by the spangle of drugs and the fug of drink. In some cases the songs prosper in spite of the audio obstacles thrown in their path. 'The Real Snow White' is a beautiful track, a dark take on Andrew Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress' and one of the few songs where it doesn't feel like Porl Thompson's prodigious guitar skills aren't being rinsed straight off the tapes by lashings of FX.

But if this is the case then it's hard to believe that a band with a record deal, let alone veterans who have been going for 30 years, could be responsible for something as shoddy sounding as 'The Hungry Ghost', its riff faded and distorted almost beyond recognition by ring modulation and phase until it becomes a tinitus pitched irritant. 'Switch' is another experiment into fooling the listener's brain into thinking that they've had drugs by the use of disorientating effects. But this doesn't take into account that many experiences on drugs are deeply unpleasant. 'The Perfect Boy', somehow, manages to provoke the same sensation in your stomach as that brought on by six pints of Guinness and six cream cakes ingested on a rough channel crossing.

And on it goes. ('Sleep When I'm Dead' is one of the laziest songs they've ever crimped out.) 'The Scream' and 'It's Over' are epic and enjoyable closers but by this time you feel like you've got a digital compression unit lodged in your skull squeezing all of the energy and sense out. The annoying thing is that you know these songs are going to sound good live (I know a few of them do already) and perhaps that's the point. No one buys albums any more, certainly not by The Cure, but plenty are going to go and see them on the next tour. But for someone unashamedly out of touch like myself who still fetishizes the album as the finished product (rather than a collection of individual tracks which are designed to fight their own corner when they come up on shuffle on an iPod) this just isn't good enough.

Read our Cure mix tape track listing here.

Wilhelm Strasse
Oct 27, 2008 2:27pm

Everyday I wonder how your job is to review albums, John. You have no idea what you're doing. Because of you it makes me sick that The Quietus is a notable review source on Wikipedia. The introduction to your interview of 4:13 Dream here, it almost word-for-word describes the pathetic musings you call reviews.

You hardly even actually review songs. If you like it, you say more or less that it's one of the album's top tracks; if you don't like it, you use these weird metaphors for what it makes you feel like.

I'm not even defending the album. It isn't the strongest material by The Cure and I think anyone can admit that, I'm just tired of seeing people actually make reviews like these public. If I wanted to hear somebody do practically nothing but shit talk an album, I'd play it for a hardcore T.I. fan. Get real.

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hobbes the tiger
Oct 27, 2008 4:47pm

I have to say Mr Doran, I disagree totally. (I'll bet you're stunned.) I was pleasantly surprised listening to the songs on 4:13 Dream. There are some great riffs, the occasional hook, a couple of songs to make you bounce on your walk to work and a couple of ideas that we've not seen out of the Cure before.
In general, it's not terribly original, ripping stuff from most other Cure eras. But you know, after 30 odd years, they can be forgiven for plundering a back catalogue far more diverse and interesting than similar aged bands. Look st the shit the Rolling Stones have been putting out for the last 20 years.
Even someone as "original" as Bowie has to rely on purloining the sound of whatever Johnny-Come-Lately sound is doing well in the hit parade at the time. It's not brilliant, but then they're never going to make another Disintegration. Jut like Depeche Mode will never make another Violator. But the Cure at their worst are still better than most of these jokers at their best. And this is a long way from the Cure at their worst.

One thing I do agree on is the compression though. I was listening to the opening track last night on my headphones and after about two minutes it felt like someone was inflating a balloon in my cerebral cortex.
It's put me right off getting the remastered versions of their back catalogue for fear my fragile skull-bone may shatter into little black pieces.

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Fred Zeppelin
Oct 27, 2008 6:00pm

Sorry lads but I have to agree with every word written by John Doran. This is a terrible album made all the worse by not having a single tune on it. Instead of the melodies they used to have, all we're left with now is Robert Smith impersonating a (love) cat on a hot tin roof. It's an album so bad it makes The Top absolutely mouthwatering. They really should go back to the drawing board because this really isn't a very good album at all.

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Mike Spano
Oct 27, 2008 7:47pm

How in a million years does Underneath The Stars sound like The Kiss?

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Ben Scammell
Oct 27, 2008 7:47pm

A good review I thought, with the same sense of pent-up frustration that many of us long-time older fans share. Of course, to most fansites it's not allowed to voice doubts, or other voices, but rather you must make zippy, giddy noises of joy, or you're out of the party - because it's an event with an arc leading up to an dout of. But as an album of songs it mostly stinks. Other comments are right - lack of melodies, lack of decent tunes, lack of production, Smith singing in registers which prove he's got range and scales these days, but isn't really comfortable. It's a dry well with a few glints in it. Bob, let it go. This half-baked cabaret approach is truly horrifying, compared to what's gone before. But then, as has been said, it mostly died after The Top give or take the odd song. And Bob should take over guitar duties - we want the Cure not Led Zep rifs buried under wah.

Falstaff

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Nordeen Brahim
Oct 27, 2008 8:26pm

Brilliant review. I totally agree with it. Thanks to John Doran for expressing what I thought when I listened to the album.

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Vincent Wursten
Oct 27, 2008 9:52pm

The Cure is the best rock band of the world. 4:13 Dream is the best album since Wish in 1992. The Cure can give music lesson to U2 when they want.

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paulhw williams
Oct 28, 2008 2:44am

It's weird...as Robert Smith and Morrissey get older, they've both forgotten how to write a tune, and instead depend on bog-standard, compressed, non-expressive guitars to carry songs that are so instantly forgotten. No choruses. I don't need a stadium sound, just something to remember. How / why have they both forgotten how to write songs?

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hobbes the tiger
Oct 28, 2008 10:06am

Vincent, I wholeheartedly agree that 4:13 Dream is the best album since Wish in 1992. But that's only because (with perhaps the exception of Bloodflowers) all their albums since then are completely unlistenable.
Like I said up top, this is a pleasant surprise because it's pretty good. It ain't no Kiss me x3 though and I think a lot of you are being overly harsh because 4:13 isn't as good as their 1985-1989 purple patch. Let's face it though, like anything, you're unlikely to be as fresh after 30 years as you are after 10 or 15.
It's not bad and better than I expected. Perhaps you expected too much?

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King Me
Oct 28, 2008 10:51am

Spot on John. It sounds like someone who's just discovered pro-tools or logic to me. Every cheesy built in effect used. That over-used sparkly sound is really funny, but this is what happens when band tire they become a parody of themselves! Awful. Weak uninventive drumming. Compare the drum sound to one of the classics...it's a joke...A friend said to me...'you listen out for that amazing drum beat or that beautiful Fender VI melody..or guitar sound or vocal melody..but there's nothing there to latch onto' The vocal melodies...yeh..do you think Robert might sing a melody sometime or just wail over the top of every song? The Cure had so much influence on me personaly through their incredible music..and ive been waiting for a return to form for a very long time but I just think I have to accept it's over.

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ali trevor
Oct 28, 2008 12:29pm

thanks for the review - some people cant handle some truth or even critisim it seems. God forbid we dont bow down and melt every time the Cure plays a song - and give it an honest listen and critique - isnt that what a fan should do?

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Matt White
Oct 28, 2008 5:56pm

This album is great.

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Michael Engelbrecht
Oct 28, 2008 6:01pm

My, god, ist this bad. They had their greatest moment when they did "Seventeen Seconds"; it now seems like a thousand years ago.

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Matt Zazzarino
Oct 29, 2008 3:26am

In reply to Wilhelm Strasse:

In response to your dislike of the reviewers "weird metaphors," I have to say that it is very hard to describe music without them. Writing about music is an art unto itself; metaphor and simile are two of its biggest tools. Listening to music is a uniquely personal experience and sometimes the only way to relate this is to liken it to something two people CAN share.

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hobbes the tiger
Oct 29, 2008 10:50am

To be fair ali trevor, there's been one person critical of JD's style but not defending the album, there's one person who's a bit overenthusiastic (although utterly correct about The Cure vs U2 - but then my Mum could give U2 a musical kicking) and me whose been equivocal in my praise. Hardly fits into your "some people cant handle some truth or even critisim it seems" does it? Or are you reading what you want to read rather than what's actually there?

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Harlan Nalrah
Nov 8, 2008 9:32pm

Overcompression in the name of standing out on ipod shuffle mode kills more decent music than anything else today. We will likely never know what Smith & co actually heard on the master tapes or what their intentions were because the mastering is so absolutely painfully destructive to the music. Maybe this was a good album, but who can tell. Chalk one more abortion up to the loudness war.

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Jorge Reyna
Nov 23, 2008 1:19am

I agree with John Doran, I am not an expert reviewing albums but I been listening to The Cure since 1979 when I was 9 years old and i saw them many times in concerts. When we love a band, we tend to accept bad albums and try to find the positive things about them. Well I did with few of The Cure cd's but I been listening the new material and to be honest .. the first "Underneath the Stars" creates an expectation of what will be come as "plainsong" or "out of this world", Disintegration and Bloodflowers respectively ... but I became very disappointed with the second "popy and girly song" called "the only one", I hate it!. The rest of the songs put me in a colorful mood, the compression is hideous, the way Robert sings i don't like it ... specially "freakshow" and "Sleep when I am dead" ...don't know it sounds very childish ... I hear few live versions, does not sound too bad .. but is not what I was expecting for one of my favorite bands ever ...

I am sure few of this songs will be played on the radio and young people will love it and they will say they love The Cure after a while, they will think "4:13 dream" is the first album ... yeah in the eighties many people in Lima - Peru told "standing on the beach" was the first "The Cure" album .. when I introduce them to "Pornography", "17 seconds" and "Faith" they hate the band! ... lol ..

I cannot torture myself listening to this album again .. although if they come to Sydney, I will definitely will be there, hopefully they won't play 3 hours as last time with all the hits of the radio ... I am sure for people who think "The Cure" is Just like heaven, boys don't cry, A Forest, Lovesong, let's go to bed, close to me, all that shit ... this could be a brilliant album ... not for someone like me who understand more the band from the gray scale point of view.

Jorge

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Daniel du Prie
Nov 23, 2008 6:05am

I agree with John. I have been listening to and have been a fan of The Cure since I was 12 years old back in 1985 or something, when they put out Close To Me. To me, it's just a little more than ironic that Robert Smith variously in the 90s heavily chided his big hero David Bowie for getting old and irrelevant, and suggested Bowie retire rather than make a fool of himself. Well, I reckon exactly the same could be said for Smith & The Cure now.
Even my best all-time "The Cure are God" mates agree. Their time is over, there's not much left but ghosts and sad ghosts at that. The last album, shocking production that reeked of dire mixers notwithstanding, at least had a few salvaging romanticist-Goth tracks; wistfulness swirling perfectly in irony and ecstasy, such as "Lost", "Labyrinth", and "Anniversary", not to mention the raw angry emotion of "Us or Them" which was nothing like I'd heard since, say, drunken classics like "The Kiss" or "Shiver & Shake". But having bought all the singles off and now this latest album the only ideas that come to mind are, while admittedly good songs, badly produced, badly mixed and, I dunno, just missing the point that The Cure is, or was. It just comes over as more dull, faux sludge, like we got 10 years ago with Wild Mood Swings. Robert Smith seems to have lost himself again in this not very well informed idea of returning the band to its original state - and, I guess, oh well, maybe we should just let him get old and slip away, after all he's often enough sung of his desire to do just that and all Romanticists want to go to that place of originality anyway. I never thought the day would come, but with an album like this, The Cure no longer inspires me in any way.
It sounds terrible, but happiness and jangliness is just not becoming of The Cure. Bring back the darkness :)

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Daniel du Prie
Nov 23, 2008 6:23am

In reply to Michael Engelbrecht:

Yea...17 Seconds...why don't they go back to that instead? Masterpiece.

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Daniel du Prie
Nov 23, 2008 6:26am

In reply to hobbes the tiger:

hobbes: sounds like you have already give up on The Cure :) No fresh sounds after 30 years...

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SRS YEA
Mar 14, 2009 4:03am

In reply to paulhw williams:

Not just them. Siouxsie. Bjork.

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SRS YEA
Mar 14, 2009 4:15am

The sound/style The Cure came up with after Disintegration isn't my cup of tea. In fact, some parts of Disintegration aren't especially, either. But, the sound of Robert's voice, his singing style, and the style of the music took a turn for the worse with Wish and really hit the bottom with Wild Mood Swings. This album has a lot of the Wild Mood Swings style, in the singing and the tunes. I was so hoping that the return of Porl would fix the band, but that hasn't happened. Smith needs to listen to Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography -- the real trilogy -- and try his best to sing like that again. We've had more than enough of Wild Mood Swings. The closest approximation of "classic Smith vocals" are on Scream (and It's Over to some degree), despite the weird Aussie tint he uses at times. But, despite its Wish meets Bloodflowers style, the only good song on this is Underneath the Stars, horrid compression an all. Thank mp3 for making music sound like we're back in the time of AM.

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Free Will
May 11, 2009 1:24am

I agree just in part with the critic. Underneath the Stars is a great song, just like Neil Young's "Cortez the killer" but far much better because of the dramatic refrain and the way Robert's voice sounds through it. But when I heard it on the CD I felt dissapointed because any youtube live version sounds better than the studio version. The production have destroyed the song. Too much echoes, too much high pitched wahwah sounds, and the voice too low in the mix. A pitty.
The only One and Siren song are nice to me. Freakshow sounds perfect for what was inteded, and absurd song. Appart from "Underneath...", I think The Hungry Ghost and The Reasons Why are my favourite ones; and This here and now with you, with the rythym of Pictures of You would be a very good song, but it's not.

When I heard in 87 and in 96 "The Kiss" and "Want", respectively, I said to myself during the first audition "The Cure is the best rock band of all time" and I still feel the same now. They sounded hard, dark, painfull, fatal, tragic, and wonderfull. I didn't have the same first impression with 4:13; So I wont say this album will grow in me because would be lying to myself.
I don't think the "rockers" like The Scream and Switch are at the same level of these two older masterpieces. They have energy but lack the drama coming from the music. And I'm too old for just a lot of pointless noise like "It's over". Too rockabilly, too wahwah.

So for me 4:13 Dream is average and still uneven. No masterpieces, apart from UTS. I was expecting something else, like what I felt during the golden Dave Allen era; or a new thing too, but not this. Sorry.

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JO
Mar 8, 2010 11:36pm

GO GROW SOME EARS & STICK ONE OF THOSE BOXING GLOVES UP YOUR ASS YOU FUCKING CUNT! HOW THE HELL DO THEY LET CLOWS LIKE YOU TO REVEIW QUALITY RECORDS?

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J.S.
Jul 9, 2010 3:29pm

I do not fault the songwriting here except to say that I understand those who criticize Bob's wailing over songs. But, there are some interesting song structures and plenty going on that makes this new. So, I do not accept the 're-hashed' Cure argument. Every band is going to sound like itself the more you listen to it. Hard for that not to happen. But, I wholeheartedly agree with the production critiques I have seen. The drums are not clear, sounding horrendously muffled. It's just bad mixing. Bob's voice is usually stuck somewhere in the mix (thus the admonition to 'play this loud' in most liner notes), so that is not the problem really. If anything can be said about the music itself, my taste is not the style of guitar played by Porl Thompson. He plays like he's trying to rival Reeves Gabrels or something and I do not like Gabrels style of playing (ruined a lot of later Bowie albums). Frankly, I think Bob needs to admit he needs a synth player in the band. He sounds great on well-produced electronica remixes.

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Curefreak
Sep 19, 2010 3:59pm

I'm obviously a hardcore Cure fan but sadly i have to agree with you for the most part the production is so shoddy i can barely turn up the volume without it sounding overly distorted.

While the songwriting for the most part isn't necessarily bad per-se it does feel overly familiar even for a band that has been around for as long as it has.

This seems to happen a lot to bands at this stage where they start becoming a parody of themselves.

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The Disexists
Aug 20, 2011 5:34am

Some of us like 'Wish' because it was the first in the post-Disintegration lineage of formulaic Cure albums (Bloodflowers excluded) and still sounded fresh-ish, but WMS, The Cure and 4:13 are the exact same album--stillborn shit. And Bloodflowers was shit too. One could probably assemble a half-decent compilation out of autoCure, but it would still be autoCure wouldn't it? So, nice review. John Doran wins.

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Jovan Ristic
Feb 18, 2012 10:39am

In reply to The Disexists:

Good review, a bad album. 1992's Wish was The Cure swan song in terms of quality. Wild Mood Swings was goin-through-the-motions second grade compilation of Cure-like-compositions, with some dreadful singles (The 13th) and a few brilliant moments such as "Open", "Gone", "Treasure" and "Bare". Bloodflowers was a mediocre follow-up to majestic Disintegration, with few decent moments ("39", "Disintegration"). The self-titled The Cure album attempted to be a comeback of sorts, had a hit-single of sorts ("The End Of The World") and WAS better than previous two albums, but still had that goin-through-the-motions feel. But 4:13 sums all weaknesses of the previous three records, adding a horrendous mix that makes it unlistenable, at least for me.

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WilliamJ
May 25, 2012 9:22am

Old article, but I'll just pretend this is an old comment.

I agree about the production to a point, it is too loud and does feel like drudging through a night of bad clubbing. Not sure why Underneath the Stars has what sounds like very thin live drumming made worse by ultracompression, where a song like that would call for deep atmospheric thundering drum rolls much like Disintegration (the digitally pronounced chimes didn't help either).

That said, I've had similar problems with Wild Mood Swings, but the few decent songs on that seemed built for that style of production. Pretty much every album since Wish I was disappointed with, worse as each new record was released. Despite this, I feel 4:13 was their best stuff (song-wise) since Wish, and I completely did not expect it, seeing how the self titled was barely worth keeping on the shelf. I enjoyed The Only One, and though your description is pretty fitting, I could see a more love influenced spin -- just in a manic Curey way. Made me feel like a teenager again, briefly.

There was some unlistenable filler that threw the whole album experience off, but it was such a relief to hear some good Cure spirit for once I could deal with having to press skip (or maybe boiling this down to size on a CDr).

I enjoyed your review and the lack of pretense I usually find elsewhere around the net.

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Diana Ramirez
May 5, 2014 2:45am

I am a Cure fan of 14+ years and I have been listening to this since they are soon to release 4:14 scream. I actually find your review interesting, you know your comparisons and although I don't necessarily agree with you, I like your article.

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