Exploring the Cure in their artistic peak (pretty much the entirety of the 80s) is easily done. Dissect their combination of gothy gloom and perfect pop and you have masterpieces like Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Disintegration on your hands. But what’s not given enough credit is the Cure’s – specifically Robert Smith, their frontman – ability to create the perfect pop love song. He did it on many occasions, crafting a hit for every decade they’ve been around, from their first hit of ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ to the hit-packed Kiss Me… To celebrate their huge impending tour, we’re remembering the songs everyone will be singing.
Boys Don’t Cry / Three Imaginary Boys
You can’t really start talking about the Cure without involving ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. It’s significantly different to the others on the list in that it was the Cure before they were ‘gloomified’ (after their debut they would release a set of albums commonly called the ‘Dark’ trilogy). Smith’s pop lyricism was always different from their more artistic statements. Compare the difference between the druggy imagery of ‘Lullaby’ and how simple ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ is. It sounds like a teenage boy’s diary, spilling out how he actually feels without ever revealing what he really thinks to the girl. Smith’s vocals were still in their formative years and he’d yet to earn that wounded animal sound that songs like ‘Lovesong’ pictured him as, but the ever-youthful voice was there from the very beginning and is still going to this day, which is more than can be said for other singers of the era.
Inbetween Days / The Head On The Door
For their first album after Pornography, which sounded like the Cure reconstructing the sonic equivalent of a sex dungeon, The Head On The Door was a release of the tension that had been built up. It spawned the minimal but catchy ‘Next To Me’, but also ‘Inbetween Days’, which had a lush acoustic guitar and ‘that’ synth, but opened with a lyric that completely contradicted the perceived poppiness – ‘Yesterday I got so old / I felt like I could die’. Maybe it was some of that darkness from their goth period or Smith’s time with Siouxsie and the Banshees that seeped into their pop sensibilities, but it worked. It spelt the formula for their later pop songs with a dark twist and added to their rising appeal in the charts. The ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ teenager’s begging was still there in lines ‘Come back, come back today’, but Smith begins with the more powerful ‘So go on, go on, just walk away’ before admitting his helplessness. Smith gave in straight away before, but now he could begin to hold himself back.
Just Like Heaven / Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
Though there is arguably better songs on Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, such as the single-worthy ‘One More Time’ and ‘A Thousand Hours’, but ‘Just Like Heaven’ was the watershed moment for Robert Smith’s pop song appeal. ‘Just Like Heaven’ is different because instead of wanting after somebody he’s lost, he has them already, but that doesn’t stop Smith feeling insecure that he might lose that person. It’s a much happier song that previous pop songs as well, taking inspiration from Smith’s real life experience with his future wife Mary Poole (who inspires many of Smith’s greatest love songs). Still, some of that dreamy imagery and insecurity passes along from the Cure’s past, as lyrics like ‘Daylight licked me into shape’ and ‘Strange as angels / dancing in the deepest ocean’ are more like something from their Goth period, but the upbeat instrumentals and heightened use of synths are completely Kiss Me…-era.
Lovesong / Disintegration
‘Lovesong’ is one of the best songs of all time. Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Led Zeppelin had to create experimental, multiple-time-signature song-suites to write their best songs, but for the Cure, it was Smith simply pouring out his heart to his wife (Mary Poole has to be thanked again) and the Cure combining their Goth roots with pop mastery. Sometimes, you don’t need metaphors about fire to explain love to the listener, you need to directly say what you mean, bypassing any cliché by actually meaning what you say. In Smith’s vocals he means every single word, every single ‘How ever far away / I will always love you’ is sang as if Poole was sat right next to him. It isn’t surprising that ‘Lovesong’ was his wedding gift to his wife – better than any toaster, really.
Friday I’m In Love / Wish
‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and ‘Friday I’m In Love’ are the go-to Cure songs for good reason. After the emotional breakdown of Disintegration, Wish was the release of pressure that The Head On The Door had been nearly a decade earlier. So many songs since have retread the ‘Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…’ lines that it’s strange to hear ‘Friday I’m In Love’ again, which is one of the most relatable Cure pop songs the band have made. Everyone knows that Friday feeling and everyone knows a bit about love, so why not combine the two? After all of Smith’s relationship difficulties on ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and ‘Inbetween Days’, ‘Friday I’m In Love’ is the final embrace of love fully, with no insecurity in sight. He doesn’t care if ‘Monday’s black’, because he knows he’s in love. And that’s all Smith needed to accomplish – all of the mixed albums that came afterwards mean very little because the Cure had crafted a masterpiece in their own eyes (Disintegration) and had five perfect pop songs under their belt. Not too shabby.