Graded on a Curve:
The Cure,
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

All this week we’re celebrating the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees with a look back from within our hall of fame archives.
Ed.

How close-minded am I? I’ll tell you. When my girlfriend asked me about The Cure I told her I wasn’t really familiar with much more than their megahits. When she went on to suggest I’d like them, I told her, “Sure, about as much as I’d like to have railroad spikes driven into my eyes.”

But love is blind—having railroad spikes driven into your eyes will do that—so I agreed solely on her behalf to give the legendarily mopey Robert Smith, who has always struck me as Morrissey minus the saving sense of ironic wit—and Company a listen. And gosh darn it if I didn’t find I liked them. They weren’t the unremitting bummer I expected, which I should have known from having heard the great “Just Like Heaven” and “Friday I’m in Love.”

Sure, Smith can be a downer. But the Cure weren’t just jauntier than I anticipated; they were also tougher. The introspective Smith may be the least likely pugilist this side of Brian Eno, but his braggadocio on “Fight,” the closing cut of 1987’s double LP Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, proves he knows his way around a pair of brass knuckles. The same goes for the king snake of a tune that is “The Snake Pit,” a savage and ponderous drone of a tune that will slither right off the stereo and bite you, as well as for the guitar-heavy opening cut “The Kiss,” on which Smith spits bile and vitriol, mostly to the effect of “I wish you were dead.” Which rhymes wonderfully with “Get your fucking voice out of my head.”

As I mentioned, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me is a double LP, and like most double albums contains its share of filler. Like the “funky” “Hot Hot Hot!!!,” which one critic cryptically labeled “a tragedy of trenchfoot” before concluding that even he knew Smith has “better stuff hidden in that mop of his.” Meanwhile, the vaguely Indian-tinged “Like Cockatoos” is a bore, while the exotic drums and sax of “Icing Sugar” promise much but fail to deliver. As for “Torture” it’s aptly named, and not even its big drug thump and all Smith’s warbling and wailing can hide its lack of a catchy melody.

But enough with the downside. Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me is an excellent LP, in part due to its variety—where else are you going to find the rambunctious and horn-driven new wave of “Why Can’t I Be You?” alongside the lovely and string-driven “A Thousand Hours” and the sheer ruckus and roll (out-of-control horns, lots of ruthless drum batter) of “Hey You!!!” To say nothing of the impossibly jaunty “Just Like Heaven,” a song so great it deserves its own statue in Hyde Park. And then there’s “Shiver and Shake,” on which the Cure produces a barbarous noise that comes at you like a punch to the snout, as does the Clockwork Orange with strings ultraviolence that characterizes “All I Want.”

The lugubrious “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep” works largely due to its delicate Eastern flavoring, while “The Perfect Girl” boasts a luvverly melody and some great stuttering and dizzying vocals by Smith. He utilizes a similar opening on the sprightly and melodic “Catch,” about a girl who falls down a lot, while the propulsive and sweet “How Beautiful You Are” could well be the album’s highlight, if Smith didn’t begin the song with the mood-killing lines, “You want to know why I hate you?/Well I’ll try and explain.” As for the slow and delightful “One More Time,” it too would be the album’s highlight, if “Just Like Heaven” weren’t around to usurp the throne.

I’ve always been more or less in the dark about what went on in England in the eighties, mainly because I had more important things to do, namely passing out drunk on the living room floor listening to the Minutemen. And I can’t say I cared, because like I say I have a mind more solidly sealed than the building that housed Energy Block #4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station. But I’m slowly catching up, and liking what I hear, and I intend to continue listening until I find I like Haircut 100, at which point I will stop listening to music forever. Mope on, Robert Smith, mope on!

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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