Another spectacular 1980s classic today, with The Cure and their double album “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me”. Led by vocalist and guitarist Robert Smith, they have such a unique contrast of dark and haunting, along with the occasional burst of sunshine that shines through on a song like “Just Like Heaven” or “Friday I’m In Love” (which is not on this record). When I think of new-wave or alternative acts of the 1980s, The Cure is usually one of the first bands I think of, and they definitely were a memorable part of my college experience.
I have to say, I really liked this album a lot. My previous exposure to The Cure was very narrowly centered on a few songs I have listened to more times than I could count, and I was looking forward to expanding my range with this record. Being a double album, there is a lot of material to get through, but without fail, I can’t think of a single song I didn’t enjoy listening to during multiple plays. Most of The Cure is what some might label an “uncomfortable listen”. For the most part, they aren’t happy or bouncy songs, but they almost always make you think and feel. One of the very best songs is “The Kiss”, which is the opening track. It has an intense drive and slow burn that really captures your attention, and if you couldn’t figure this out just from the extended intro alone, the lyrics confirm that this is NOT a song about happy times in a relationship. I thought “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse was the most intense song of despair and empty sadness I had ever heard, but this one is absolutely in the same league. I think the difference is that this song comes a bit later in the process, when you start to shift from devastation to anger. The guitar work on this song, I assume by Smith, is absolutely phenomenal. At this point in time, Porl Thompson, who later toured with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, was still a part of the band, and was the other primary creative and music force in the group. I have created enough problems as of late for my neighbors with my sound system, but in one of those moments where the darkness creeps in, and we ALL have those, I could see myself sitting on my couch with this on at a volume that would rattle several floors.
The mood shifts with “Catch”, which has a very Velvet Underground feel to me, and leans heavily on some airy strings to add a melancholy feel to the song. Another early standout is the first, and perhaps most recognizable single to most listeners, “Why Can’t I Be You”. Even as an up-tempo track, it radiates with the dark sadness that flows through most of The Cure and their songs. The horns on this song are great, and Smith’s unusual vocals cut through the melody with a noticeable sharpness. “How Beautiful You Are” reminds me of “Under The Milky Way” by The Church, and both have that same echoing appeal.
Playing on the contrast of the band, one of the darkest and intense songs, “Snakepit” serves as the lead in for my all-time favorite song by The Cure, “Just Like Heaven”. One of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, and it always brings me great joy to think of the nights this song echoed across the dance floor at Garfield’s in Greeley. Not that I had any clue what I was doing, but the memories are happy ones with friends old and new, moving beyond our “teen bars” into our first 21+ club. It certainly helped that our former roommates all worked there, as they were the key to my early entry to many clubs from that day on. “Just Like Heaven” is what drew me to The Cure, but this album is enough to keep my attention all the way through. You have to be in the right mood, and I could make an argument this album is best suited for listening to alone, but in the right setting, it is one of the best and most complete albums from this time or genre.