CD Review of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me by The Cure

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Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me
starstarstarstarno star Label: Rhino/Elektra
Released: 1990
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After the Cure finally found the perfect blend of pop, dance, and darkness on The Head on the Door, they re-entered the studio with their de facto leader, Robert Smith, determined not to follow the same pattern this time around. Smith also had the idea to get the rest of the band more involved in the creative process, so he asked them to pitch their own song ideas. When recording began, the Cure had 40 songs to choose from, a number which was – with the assistance of producer Dave Allen – quickly pared down to 30; by the time all was said and done, the band recorded backing tracks for 27 of them, making it none too surprising that the resulting album was a sprawling two-record affair.

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was the Cure’s commercial breakthrough in the US, finally taking them beyond the confines of the college radio charts and into the Billboard Top 100…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves by just tossing out the names of the album’s biggest hits and reminiscing about the bits we already know by heart. What we have here is a collection of eighteen songs which tend not to bear much sonic resemblance to each other; the simplest description of the album, if not necessarily the most precise, is that it takes a few songs with the pop sensibilities of the best material from The Head on the Door, then scatters them willy-nilly throughout a bunch of stuff that’s half familiar and half experimental. Most songs work pretty well on their own, but the eighteen various parts never fully congeal to form a cohesive entity.

Still, among those parts, one can find some of the strongest material of the Cure’s career.

“Catch” is probably the simplest pop song the band will ever write, but it’s a lovely one; “The Perfect Girl,” meanwhile, is slightly quirky but no less catchy. In retrospect, listening to “How Beautiful You Are” will raise one’s eyebrows at how similar in feel the song is to Disintegration’s “Love Song,” but, then, there are several songs which have just as much melancholy to them, like “One More Time” and “A Thousand Hours.” “Hey You!” might only be two and half minutes of horn-squawking filler, hence its being deemed disposable enough to be removed from the original CD release of the album in order to make it fit onto one disc, but it’s still nice to hear it again. In fact, horns are a fixture throughout Kiss Me, from the sax on “Icing Sugar” to the brass-powered “Why Can’t I Be You?”

Okay, since we’ve brought up one of those top-100 singles (“Why Can’t I Be You?”), we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up the other two as well. “Hot Hot Hot!!!” is about as close to funky as Robert Smith and company ever get, and, well, it’s not really that close at all…but it’s still damned catchy. Not, however, even remotely as catchy as “Just Like Heaven,” a song so wonderful that both Dinosaur Jr. and Goldfinger felt obliged to cover it; if there’s one song that defines college radio circa 1987, “Just Like Heaven” would be it.

Of the rarities disc that Rhino’s attached to this reissue, it consists of 18 tracks; nine are demos, three are alternate mixes, and the rest are described as “live bootleg” recordings. The demos are predominantly instrumental, making them interesting for perhaps a one-off listen but not much else, and the same goes for the alternative mixes as well; as for the live tracks…well, they sound alright, but as anyone who’s heard the Cure’s two-part live album from 1993 (Show/Paris) knows, the band aren’t renowned for experimenting with their arrangements in concert.

If it wasn’t so damned stylistically schizophrenic, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me would be a five-star album. As it is, it handily pulls in a four-star rating and, every few songs or so, demonstrates why it was the band’s commercial breakthrough.

~Will Harris