My favorite 100 albums of all time: #20 ("Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me")
Most of The Cure's albums are outstanding, but Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me is simply magical. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me shows The Cure delivering perfect, joyful pop right alongside languid and extended jams that don't give a damn about radio play.
I have to be honest, I was a bit put off by Robert Smith's voice at first. Almost despite myself, I loved some of the singles off this album, but I initially found his delivery just a little off-putting. It eventually grew on me, but that's a story for later.
Even so, I couldn't deny the strength of the singles from Kiss Me.
Any time "Just Like Heaven" came on at a school dance or one of the Six Flags parties, I was on the dance floor having a grand time dancing my ass off. This song is just irresistible. If you listen closely, you'll hear many layers to the song – bass, drums, acoustic and electric guitar, and synths. And, of course, Smith's vocals. He does sing like a man completely in love, unabashed and passionate. But the music is so incredibly tight here, it's beautiful. I particularly enjoy the bass part, not just the melody of it, but the metallic chug tone that punches right through the speaker.
Less touching, but no less likely to make you want to shake your ass, is "Hot! Hot! Hot!" This one takes all the lessons The Cure learned about grove from The Head on the Door and applies them relentlessly. The synths are perfect here, as is the almost jazzy guitar throughout.
Likewise, "Why Can't I Be You?" is a massively up-tempo assault with horns and rapid-fire rhythm guitar that makes you need to move in time.
But Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me isn't all upbeat and love songs. Some songs are just as groove-worthy, but a bit darker. "How Beautiful You Are" is just as catchy as "Why Can't I Be You," but starts with "you wonder why I hate you" and tells a story of a shallow partner who shows herself to be a deeply ugly person. Just as Smith conveys total affection with "Just Like Heaven," he drips with sadness and contempt here. And it's just as beautiful and affecting. "Til you spoke and showed me understanding is a dream / I hate these people staring, make them go away from me" she says. I've never been sure if they're real strings or synths on this one, but they're lovely either way.
"The Snakepit" is a nearly seven minute piece that unfolds slowly and dreamily. It's more than two minutes before Smiths' vocals begin, almost as an afterthought. This is the kind of song that lets you just sink into its atmosphere, a comfortable ride where the destination isn't that important. Me? I'm here for the guitar and un-rushed but compelling drums.
The intricate percussion on "Like Cockatoos," along with the glacial pace and dense layers just put me in a happy trance. Just let this one wash right over you.
Really, just let the entire album wash over you. From start to finish, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me is flawless. On The Head on the Door the band was warm and embraced poppy and melodic songs that featured acoustic guitar, live drums, and almost McCartney-esque bass. On Pornography the band went as far in the "gothic," almost cold and artificial sound as it could. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me reconciles both of these sides of Smith's songwriting and brings them together into a absolutely amazing fusion.
The Cure may or may not be your cup of tea, but I challenge anybody to listen to the full album and not acknowledge the sheer musical mastery that's on display here. If you haven't been introduced to The Cure before, here's a great place to start.