"Underneath The Stars" doesn't exactly escape the formula trap (here's the Disintegrationy one), but rises above it with an epic, swirling track, a classic Cure long instrumental intro heavy on chiming guitar giving way to Robert Smith's vocals, buried and back masked in the mix. Fat Bob's voice has improved over the years, more expressive and multi-faceted, a broadening of the palette even as the lyrical subject matter has continued to coalesce around familiar themes and vocabulary.
If there's a criticism it's that the band as a whole continues to suffer from Smith's sudden aversion to synthesizer that saw the exit of longtime keyboardist Roger O'Donnell from the band a few years ago. It's somewhat less of an issue live, where sheer, muscular force and the welcome return of Porl Thompson on guitar compensate, but there's an atmosphere missing from widescreen efforts like this (on the subject of "Atmosphere", it's interesting that the one apparent synthesized tool still allowed in the box is the windchime effect...). A welcome return to form and the clear highlight of the album - will the rumored "dark side" half of the 4:13 Dream sessions, allegedly due next year, see more of this?