The Cure
The Head on the Door


4.5
superb

Review

by Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (139 Reviews)
July 11th, 2011 | 34 replies


Release Date: 1985 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The door to rejuvenation…

It’s almost shocking how much The Cure improved over the course of a year. Moving from the unfocused, experimental mess that was 1984‘s ‘The Top’ to the majestic beauty of ‘The Head On The Door’ the following year, one gets the impression that Robert Smith was rejuvenated and cured (pun alert) of his creative toil when long-standing pal Simon Gallup returned to deploy his bass skills, sorely missed since ‘Pornography’ back in ‘82.

Right from the superb opener ‘Inbetween Days’ things sound immensely stronger than any of last year’s efforts, with a gorgeous wave of New Order-esque synth and guitar washing the listener in its refreshing glow, before ‘Kyoto Song’s sophisticated melody starts up, with strong vocals from Smith, feather-soft guitar, and evocative oriental sounds flickering in the background.

The record just moves from strength to strength, each track further solidifying the notion that ‘The Head On The Door’ is simply one of the best albums the gang of goths ever did. Writing of the ‘gang of goths’, it begins to seem inaccurate to label them as such, because nothing here is stereotypically gothic. In fact, its surprisingly radio-friendly for a Cure record - not a sign of selling out on the band’s behalf, but rather a sign they’d reached a new level of sophistication and skill, with Smith managing to express his typical angst-filled confessions with a verve, vigour, and eye for pop-hooks he never quite accomplished before.

Why ‘The Head On The Door’ works so well is because it takes the best features of each of The Cure’s previous phases and blends them together seamlessly. To put it another way, it takes the pop-hooks from the ‘Japanese Whisper’ singles, the smorgasbord of ideas and sounds from ‘The Top’, the familiarly gloomy subject matter from the gothic trilogy, and refines each of them until they’re at an incredibly polished, pop-friendly standard, before combining them. The result is a familiar yet fresh brand of The Cure - a band sounding better than it had in years.

In addition, the band still found room to experiment, best witnessed by the flamenco guitars and castanets present on the fantastic ‘The Blood’, and the beat-driven, oddness of ‘Close To Me’. It’s impossible to call this a complete review without writing about ‘Close To Me’ in further detail because it’s simply one of the greatest songs The Cure ever did. It’s ever-so-subtle undercurrent of breathy samples and gentle synth bubbles provide a wry backing to the desperately dark lyrics, giving the number a menacing and slightly demented quality.

Other highlights that deserve a mention include the odd synth and piano fluttering like the wings of a hummingbird on ‘Six Different Ways’, the lengthy but stunning intro to ‘Push’, the sublime riff driving the pretty ‘A Night Like This’, and the angry, fuzzy grind of ‘Screw’. Truth be told, there’s genuinely not a single weak track on the entire disc, and any of the above songs could easily be swapped out in favour of any of the other tracks, and still require the same level of praising superlative - such is the undeniable quality at play.

‘The Head On The Door’ is easily one of most accomplished and enjoyable albums the band ever produced. It’s refreshing and consistent; pleasantly familiar at times, but excitingly experimental at others, and alternative, yet hooky enough to be immediately catchy. Robert Smith penned some of his sharpest lyrics here and, with a full band that was sorely missed since Gallup’s departure, some of his strongest melodies too. The full band setting helped usher in rejuvenation for a group whose future appeared to be hanging by a thread, a year previous, and to top it all off, singles like ‘Inbetween Days’ managed to make headway in popularising the band outside of their home turf; just scrapping into the Billboard Hot 100 at #99. To put it simply; with ‘The Head On The Door’, The Cure reached heady heights indeed.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Acanthus
July 11th 2011


9543 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Lovely review!

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Acanthus - Thanks very much!

This is a really nice album - check it out if you can. It's not as dark as 'Pornography', but it's really well done. 'Close To Me' is essential.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

andcas - Believe it or not, i've actually not heard that cover, so i can't say...


Acanthus
July 11th 2011


9543 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I like A.F.I's cover of "The Hanging Garden" quite a bit personally, but I haven't heard "Just Like Heaven" (I think).

@Tom93M - I do oh so much prefer their darker albums, but I know what you mean.

Jethro42
July 11th 2011


12545 Comments


Good job, Tom. In Between Days and Close to me are the kind of songs I'm accustomed with. I'd like to delve into some more obscure Cure one day.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

andcas - Not bad. Must be pretty weird sat there watching someone perform a song you wrote years ago, but they did a good job, so i'm sure Robert Smith enjoyed it.


Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Jethro42 - Thanks, i love those two tracks also. Have you checked out their gothic stuff from the early 80's - if not, then that would be a great place to delve further into their work.


Voivod
Staff Reviewer
July 11th 2011


6273 Comments


good job with the Cure discog reviewing man, pos.

Digging: Varathron - Untrodden Corridors of Hades

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Voivod - Cheers, bud. Almost halfway now; really enjoying writing them.


Jethro42
July 11th 2011


12545 Comments


I've only listened to Seventeen Seconds in full and didn't like it at all. I mostly know them thanks to compilations and radio, in short.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Jethro42 - Ahh, in that case i'd say don't bother with their more gothic stuff, it seems you wouldn't enjoy it.


Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

andcas - I agree, but i can understand why some people don't take to it - it is quite dark and gloomy after all. That's what i enjoy about it, actually.


Jethro42
July 11th 2011


12545 Comments


Ahh, in that case i'd say don't bother with their more gothic stuff, it seems you wouldn't enjoy it.

Possibly, thanks.

Jethro42
July 11th 2011


12545 Comments


Where should I start with their dark and gloomy side then?

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Jethro42 - Well, 'Seventeen Seconds' was the start of their gloomy stuff so if you didn't like that, then... But if you want to give it a go anyway check out 'Faith' and 'Pornography'. 'Disintegration' is widely reagrded as their best album, so perhaps check that out.


Jethro42
July 11th 2011


12545 Comments


I take good note, thank you, sir.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Jethro42 - No problem : )


Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

andcas - I know what you mean, cos i feel it too. I'm the same with Joy Division - incredibly gloomy and near suicial music at times, but i sing/dance/go-mental-to it more than any 'upbeat' band.


Acanthus
July 11th 2011


9543 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I never understood people not liking Joy Division/anything sounding similar; the gloom is the best part of it for me.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2011


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Acanthus - Same here. One of my all time favourite bands (definitely in my top 3 of all time).



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