The Cure – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

Every year, my law school put on a student-run theatrical production (the Law Revue, which is a humorous name, if you go to law school. Maybe). The Law Revue was basically a musical; the writers came up with an original script, including new, plot-relevant lyrics grafted onto existing songs. Those songs could be from the movies, Broadway shows, or the exciting world of rock. For example, the Law Revue song “Civ Pro Wizard” was the Who’s “Pinball Wizard” with civil procedure-themed lyrics. In order to pull this off, there had to be a pit orchestra/band. I was in that pit band for two years. The guitarist in the pit band was named Dave, and he was a huge Van Halen fan (nickname:  “Diamond Dave,” of course). This was disappointing, because it meant we had very little in common musically. Nonetheless, one day, apropos of nothing, he told me he listened to Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and loudly enthused (David did everything loudly) “it rocks your pants off!” You know what? It does.

What I Think of This Album

The Head On the Door is an essential Cure album. Disintegration is the best Cure album. Wish is the last great Cure album. But Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me is my favorite Cure album, and arguably the most representative Cure album of them all. A double-album length monster, this disc is remarkably successful over its 17 (CD) tracks (the CD omits “Hey You!!!”). What’s more, while there are pop songs – indeed, pop hits – sprinkled throughout, this is actually a very dark, surprisingly psychedelic-tinged affair.

Oh, did you think a song called “The Kiss” on an album titled Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was going to be sweet and romantic? Well, no. The lead song instead begins with an ominous rhythm track before erupting into a blistering phaser/wah-wah guitar workout that goes on for almost four minutes (no wonder Dave liked it), before Robert Smith finally wails “Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me / Your tongue’s like poison” and by the time he is shouting “I wish you were dead,” you’ve been left, like the narrator, nailed to the floor. Things only get more bleak, as “Torture” revels in grotesque imagery while the band creates a massive tornado, perversely adding very poppy horns towards the end.

If I told you the Cure wrote a song about doggy-style sex, what do you think that would sound like? You would be wrong, whatever your answer, because what happens is that Smith howls desperately across impressively piercing guitar lines and stately keyboard chords on the languid but not sexy “All I Want.” Meanwhile, “A Thousand Hours” is a drawn out, self-indulgent cry of despair and hopelessness, which is exactly why I am drawn to it; this is one of my favorite songs on this album and in the entire Cure catalog People may call it self-pitying, but I think it’s honest and gorgeous. “Shiver and Shake” is an aggressive number that effectively matches Smith’s vicious sentiments (“You’re a fucking waste / . . . / Oh, you’re useless and ugly”).

The mood pieces are also very effective, though again, extremely not uplifting. “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep” gets by on Boris Williams’s drumming and Lol Tolhurst’s synthesized sitar, as well as ghostly atmospherics. “The Snakepit” is a more evil reworking of “If Only Tonight” with added sinister guitar and morose monotone vocals (heavily treated), but even if the track betrays some laziness, it still skillfully creates its own creepy universe. The funereal drone of “One More Time” is offset by the hypnotizing synthesized flute part, and some windswept and desperate romantic lyrics. Yes, “Like Cockatoos” is replete with disorienting bird sounds, but more critical is the rhythm section, with Williams doing stellar work and Simon Gallup holding down a driving, obsidian bass part; Tolhurst adds some courtly faux-strings and Smith’s vocals sound like they are coming from the depths of a well.

There is some light peeking out from the thunderheads, though. Synthesized-string-laden “Catch” is a charming, catchy, wistful, and almost gossamer love song – another favorite. Of course, “Just Like Heaven” is a pop masterpiece. With Williams leading the way, each instrument appears in turn (immediately next is the bass, then the rhythm guitar, followed by the keyboards, leading to the lead guitar, and finally the vocals), building on each other to create an inimitable tower of melody. What’s the best part of the song? The descending guitar riff? The simple but memorable bass line? The piano solo? The paired double snare hits? Smith’s upbeat way with lyrics that end in a drowning? The fact is, this is a classic and maybe reason alone to own the album.

Almost as enjoyable is the bright and bouncy “Why Can’t I Be You?,” a song with unusually straightforward lyrics, with nary a hint of tragedy, despair, or loss of self. I don’t think “angelicate” is a word, though. “Hot Hot Hot” may be silly – white boy funk from West Sussex? – but it’s still a lot of fun. “How Beautiful You Are” is an unexpectedly successful reworking of Baudelaire’s 1869 poem “The Eyes of the Poor,” with a great vocal from Smith and nice piano work on the part of Tolhurst.

And the throwback sounds of “Icing Sugar” come across like an alternate track from The Head on the Door (that drumming! That bass!). Much the same can be said for “The Perfect Girl,” which retains that pop-era Cure sound.

I have one complaint, which is that “Fight” is not a good song (lyrically, at least) and a shitty way to end the album; they should have kept the delightfully free-spirited “Hey You!!!” and ditched this song instead.

Trivia: Smith has been open about how “Just Like Heaven” is basically The Only Ones’ “Another Girl, Another Planet” with some left turns thrown in.

The Best Thing About This Album

The best thing about this album is its fundamental Cure-ness.

Release Date

May, 1987

The Cover Art

Excellent. I once met a girl when I was maybe 16 who found this album art very disturbing. I have no idea why. Lips are cool. More lips, please. Note that the album title on the cover omits the commas that are on the spine, and which consensus seems to coalesce around as part of the official title.

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