Remember Emo’s Were Sorta Cool? This Is Why: The Cure – The Head On The Door

An inspiring cover as always.

I never liked Robert Smith. Or The Cure. Correction, I hated Robert Smith. He’s just too ridiculous for me to possibly like him, too melodramatic, too overtly over the top, just too much. Naturally this played a role in my dislike for The Cure. However, a recent listen to Close To Me, ironically my most hated song of theirs, inspired me to dip my toe in and give them a chance.

A wise choice.
As it turns out I was both right and wrong. Robert Smith and The Cure are very melodramatic. Yet they manage strike a balance between Smith’s undulating vocals, the lush, grandiose sounds and the atmosphere of gloom and tendency to over-indulge that pervades so much of their work. On Head On The Door they succeed in somehow creating a light, accessible listen from the mire of despair and desolation that frames the album. The saxophone solos help with that.
The pop-goth sound is a unique one and, much as it pains me to say, Smith is at the heart of it. He may be a caricature character but it’s hard to deny the passion and intensity he invests into his work, it’s simply impossible to imagine the band without his anguished delivery leading the charge. Like Morrissey minus the sometimes oppressive pretentiousness and with an extra dose of manic energy, he channels new romanticism into a distinctly deathly vision. The lyrics, touching on Cure favourites such as death and love, are evocative at times and repetitious at others, you can only hear Smith bemoan his sad state so many times before you wish he’d just head to Disneyland and be happy already. Not a band to suddenly spark an interest in when depressed though as I learned. Amidst the sprightly, delicate strings and percussion, his flairful side cuts loose on album highlight The Blood, injecting the song with a Latin flavour and pulsating pace that helps spark the album alive and ensures it stands out with a display of real invention and creativity.
True highlights such as that are something of a rarity however; often times the songs can seem to almost blend into each other, an indistinct bundle of brood that gets by purely on the fact that, even if they can fail to really grab the listener the way stand-outs such as The Blood or, shock horror, Close To Me, do, they at least have the decency to make nice sounds in their shadow.
Not that could it be said that it’s a bloated affair; indeed it’s comparatively brisk and tight compared to other works, the album lasting just long enough to sustain interest for its entirety without slipping into overindulgence and the dreaded ‘soundscapes’ that are a hallmark of later albums such as Disintegration; indeed the songs never even exceed the 5 minute mark; a display of restraint and a commitment to accessibility that makes for a much more streamlined affair than usual. 
Yet in spite of its relative brevity it can’t be denied that the stirring strings, spidery guitar and creeping bass combine to create an almost tangible atmosphere and a murky yet strangely soothing tone; punctuated by occasional bursts of upbeat, vintage 80s indie to lighten the mood, shit you could even dance to some of them. The moody yet light sounds complement the lyrics well and help string the listener along for another go on Smith’s merry go round of melancholy. A truly haunting image. 
In all it’s a great album. It’s by no means a stunner but it was certainly a welcome surprise, an effort not weighed down by the grandeur and grimness of later works but instead showing a band that’s captured their sound and distilled it to possibly its purest form. Some may prefer the expansion of this form seen later on but I’ll stick to this, prime Robert Smith as he strikes a balance between sinking into his own gloom and crafting some top notch noises without depressing everyone too much.
Ease up on the makeup though Robert. Please.

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