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The Cure - The Head on the Door (1985)
Producer: Robert Smith, Dave Allen
In Between Days
Six Different Ways
The Baby Screams
Close to Me
A Night like This
The Head on the Door is the sixth studio album by The Cure and it marks the moment in time where they made the leap from being a great band to an exceptional one. After their doom and gloom laden early 80's output, Robert Smith had resorted to the catchy synth pop that was found on Japanese Whispers. The psychedelic transitional album The Top followed, now one year later we have The Head on the Door.
Some will tell you this is a straight up pop album and that Robert Smith sold out to his depressed fan base. That is something which I disagree with wholeheartedly, because if anything The Head on the Door is just as unhappy as Pornography; it just isn't carrying a declaration banner around this time and wearing a T-shirt with Prozac written on the front. Whereas Pornography was meticulously designed and built around only the most stubborn workmanship, The Head on the Door is a far more experimental recording and is willing to actually create a hint of melody.
There was good news all round for The Cure with the arrival of this album. Firstly, Bassist Simon Gallup has rejoined the band, having settled any differences he may have had with Smith.
Secondly, Porl Thompson joined the band as a full time member. He had contributed a little to The Top but was yet to be truly inducted to the band.
And last but by no means least, superb and often innovative drummer Boris Williams has joined the band.
In Between Days starts things off in the best way imaginable. It isn't just one of The Cure's best songs; it is one of the best pop songs in the entire history of popular music. It is instantly recognisable from its short drum roll introduction and then followed by only the most striking of guitar work; it continues to be a testament to Robert Smith's genius. The actual main driving rhythm is played by an acoustic guitar which is quite a change for The Cure, but we will be seeing more of the acoustic guitar a little later on. With a running time of less than 3 minutes it is an exhilarating experience.
Making a stark comparison, the bleak Kyoto Song is placed as song number 2. Now, this is what shizzles my nizzle when people say that Robert Smith sold out to his legion of original fans. Kyoto Song is just as dark as anything from Faith or Pornography, if not more so. Simon Gallup is back with a vengeance and his devastating playing is unrelenting in its assault on the aural senses. Smith is downright creepy when he sings, "It looks good!! It tastes like nothing on earth! It's so smooth! It even feels like skin", in what are possibly his most sadistic vocals yet recorded.
The Blood features a flamenco guitar and was Robert's attempt to change what people thought The Cure meant. For him, there are no boundaries to the band's sound, so this is further exploration into what they could achieve. The guitar solo at 2 minutes 20 seconds sounds wonderful and the castanets throughout the song are cleverly used.
This album also sees the band implementing the use of longer instrumental introductions, something which would soon become The Cure's trademark. Push is the first song on the LP to boast a noticeable change in atmosphere, with a guitar and keyboard infused intro which lasts for well over 2 minutes. It's an excellent addition to the album and the production is so crystal clear it only emphasises the quality of musicianship on offer.
Close To Me was the second and final single to be released from the album. Robert Smith really hit gold with the couple of straight out pop moments on The Head on the Door, and the restrained musicianship has a claustrophobic sting in its tail. The song sees Robert Smith's whispered words carefully detailing the subject of fear and seeing things in the dark. The single version of Close To Me features a brass section in its closing moments and it reached number 13 in the UK singles chart.
Screw is the downright weirdest moment on the album, but has an endearing personality within its demo-like quality. Gallup's bass is turned up to 11 and rattles out this really compressed set of notes, while the most rudimentary of keyboard work plinks in the background. It is thoroughly danceable though, which is a great attribute. What can I say, I like it.
Sinking closes the album and it somehow manages to blast everything else out of the water. If you are a fan of The Cure's recordings which boast a longer running time and have an epic overture then you are going to be very impressed. Smith sounds like the most distressed soul alive in what is one of the defining vocal performances of his career. The keyboards are... well, don't even get me started on the stunning keyboard work, or I'll be here forever.
The Head on the Door is without a doubt the band's best album up until 1985 and it marks a significant change in Robert Smith's quality control. With a running time of less than 40 minutes, The Head on the Door is perfectly edited; it is concise with its artistic direction and has only the greatest of melodies, vocal hooks and musicianship.
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A more consistent album than 'The Top,' 'The Head on the Door' shows off a more experimental and intriguing direction for the Cure than has been heard since 'Pornography' three years earlier. Lol Tolhurst's keyboards share the limelight with the guitars of Robert Smith and Porl Thompson, effectively diving the album between the lighter, bouncier keyboard led songs with the more rock-oriented offerings.
The album still boasts a strong commercial awareness with the jolly romantic pop of 'In Between Days,' 'The Baby Screams' and the memorable, hand-clapping 'Close to Me,' but balances it out with harder material in the form of the distorted 'Screw,' the rocking 'A Night Like This' (complete with sax solo) and the catchy 'Push.' Even the more intricate material doesn't descend as far into indulgence as the band's music has tended to, the closest offender being the distinctly odd 'Six Different Ways' with its unusual keyboard touches and flippant disregard for keeping in time.
1. In Between Days
2. Kyoto Song
3. The Blood
4. Six Different Ways
6. The Baby Screams
7. Close to Me
8. A Night Like This
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 In Between Days
2 Kyoto Song
3 The Blood
4 Six Different Ways
6 The Baby Screams
7 Close To Me
8 A Night Like This