Top positive review
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Might be more exciting than Disintegration.
on September 12, 2013
This is The Cure's most physical, sensual album. If Disintegration sounds "classical" -- pristine, mannered, elegant, with tubercular pining over "Pictures Of You" -- then Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me is "decadent." One song on it is actually an adaptation of a prose piece by Baudelaire. The music has a feverish and unhealthy sound; if the French poets had made a rock album, it would have sounded like this. The music is heavy, sticky, and chaotic, and Robert Smith matches it with bizarre lyrics, emphasizing the weirdest aspects of his vocal style.
"Just Like Heaven" was the most successful single (and actually sounds uncharacteristically restrained for this album), but for my money, the real show-stopper here is "Why Can't I Be You?" This has to be the most brilliantly deranged music ever seriously presented as a pop single. It basically takes a light-funk rhythm and a horn section, makes them play at a manic, break-neck pace (this is probably the most energetic song in The Cure's entire catalogue), and has Smith wail such an over-the-top profession of love that it actually becomes kind of menacing. Lines such as "Everything you do is irresistible / everything you do is simply kissable" start to sound like accusations, leading into his unhinged scream, "why can't I be you?" When he gets to "everything you do is simply dreamy," he slurs the words so much that it sounds like incoherent raving. And then the horns rock the hell out of the chorus.
But don't let the singles overshadow the rest of the album. The very first song, "The Kiss," is a logical development from earlier bad-trip Cure songs like "Shake Dog Shake," but here they finally find the right sound -- a delirious, dizzying swirl of hypnotic acid guitars and Simon Gallup's overbearingly loud, primitive bass grind. The song plays as an instrumental for longer than you would expect, before the tension finally explodes with Smith's violent wail. There is not a lot of subtlety here: he bluntly and rather nastily equates lust with poison, thus stating the theme for the entire album. But, in this case, confidence sells the directness of the attack. Never before, or since, had The Cure sounded so dangerous.
There is a tendency, not unwarranted, to typecast Smith as a sad sack who writes nursery-rhyme love songs, but this album proves that, once, he was a very strong writer. The Baudelaire cover "How Beautiful You Are" could have failed in any number of ways, but instead, it is actually better than the source material. It is psychologically deeper: in Baudelaire, the poor folk are simply admiring the elegance of the cafe where the narrator is sitting with his lover, whereas Smith makes them admire the woman specifically. Thus, instead of simply being thoughtless, the woman's reply becomes deeply and ironically cruel. Also, Baudelaire's narrator says, "you want to know why I hate you today," whereas Smith drops the "today" and turns a rich boy's petulant sulk into a life-changing experience.
When Smith's voice isn't dominating the songs, the music picks up the slack with the oddest and most unconventional sounds to be found on any Cure album. Several songs are long near-instrumental mood pieces with understated vocals, like "The Snakepit," a sexy and hypnotic groove with a killer bass riff, or "Icing Sugar," where galloping drums are contrasted with spaced-out, dreamy synths and horns, or the vast chime-guitar expanse in "One More Time," which calls to mind some sort of vast underground lake. These songs sit comfortably next to anthemic, bass-heavy arena rock ("Torture"), claustrophobic insomniac psychedelia ("If Only Tonight We Could Sleep"), and demented mariachi or swing ("Hey You!" and "Hot Hot Hot!"). There are some sweet love songs also, like "Catch," which sounds weirder and weirder the more you think about it -- apparently he was in love with a girl who spent all her time staring and falling down.
The band's confidence and skill on this album are thrilling. Disintegration is still probably my favourite Cure album, but this one might have stronger, wilder, and more original music. Not every song would have worked as a single, but there are no bad songs, and every song contributes something to the album as a whole. "The Kiss," for example, is basically just a really long intro, but it's also one of the best Cure songs ever. At the same time, the album still feels unified, and most of the songs use the same basic psychedelic guitar sound, they just explore all of its facets. If you only know the hits, stop and see what you've been missing.