The album is an artistic statement, a swag of songs greater than the sum of its parts. In a new series, our authors nominate their favourites.
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, The Cure’s seventh studio album is an 18-track, 70-minute plus extravagance of pure theatre. The album that cracked America and the endlessness of international suburbia. An album that gave us excuses for a thousand hours spent on dizzy edges, beds made of flowers, daylight licking us into shape. 1987. A time when stereos were an extension of your aesthetic and were either enormous or cute and bulbous and Hubba Bubba purple.
An album recalling quiet streets bordered by creeks and bushland at dusk – spooky, dark and ethereal. A catalogue of swampy sounds and small town longing. Staring past a ragged tree line wanting something to land. A UFO. A boy. A jabberwocky. Retreating to my room. Lying flat on my back on my white, satin bedspread gazing at the ceiling when there was time for gazing lost to make believe and lands made up in my head that looked like film clips. Peak MTV – when all the songs were synonymous with the images.
Robert Smith staring out of TVs. He saw things, like us, that weren’t there. Eyeballing cameras or hiding in the shadows. Waking up and rubbing his eyes and wombling around; twisting himself into shapes in crumbling mansions, coffins lost at sea, clutching the edges of cliffs. Just Like Heaven when nothing was. The Cure were medicine like that. A soundtrack for what we already knew was coming. The end of spare time. The end of moments. The end of the world. Big bass. Soaring orchestral keyboards. Lonely lead guitars.
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me was a play I hadn’t staged yet. A possibility of darkness. Riffing up and riffing out in elongated minutes – the album expands – songs going on for eternities, a wailing thing without words until they arrive. I’d love to touch the sky tonight.
My mate Cassidy says Catch is my song – all far away eyes and falling down all the time. A stripped back ballad happening in charming, delicate air; playful and cheeky like a handful of other tracks on the album that tap into the Cure’s whimsical side. But I want to disappear into the dark romance of One More Time or If Only Tonight We Could Sleep.
I want a boy that’s dark but still like icing sugar. I want to be in love like love is here. I want cars that drive me away and motorbikes that never come back. Just to feel my heart for a second. And those keyboards, the deep synth inside me, driving on long roads hoping something might change. My girlfriends and I rolling through semi-rural wastelands with The Cure in the deck, windows down, howling into the wind. But no one ever kissed my neck quite like I wanted them to, like Robert said they would, like the sad refrains promised.
I like to imagine I’m the girl left by a boy in the rain on my favourite track, Like Cockatoos. A song full of dread and dramatic repetitions, as if we’re being pulled into the wrong small town at night, the implication of birds falling over the heavy, orchestral chords like fine glittering hail.
I don’t meet Robert Smith in real life until the turn of the new millennium – the year 2000 and I’m working as assistant to the promoter of the Livid Festival. Typical Livid style, The Cure are a headline scoop, retro cool. In the early afternoon I see Robert unload himself out of a mini-bus. Dark glasses, faded black t-shirt definitely too tight, black lycra bike shorts. His pale English legs luminous in the sun. His infamous hair, greasy and lank. I’m disappointed. Later though, I have my moment.
Standing outside the office, taking a break at the top of the stairs behind the monolith of main stages Robert comes into view below me – exuberant bird’s nest head, body swathed in endless dark material, moving slowly like a gothic Buddha now he’s in different air, waiting for the angles and all the dark spirits to catch up. Raising his face to look at mine. A caked, white moon – the lurid gash of red swiped across his lips and into his cheeks – kohl savaged eyes. Hovering on the stair, considering me with the slightest hint of a smile. “Hello,” he says and then he winks. Like he remembers speaking to me through the TV on Saturday mornings. Like he misses hanging in the backseat on all those lonely drives. Like he knows. And all around, the night sings out like cockatoos.
Listening to Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me now makes me want to write my resignation letter. Like I forgot to be something the songs promised or something I’d promised myself. To live inside a poem. Back when those chords soared through me like lightening and I might have had the guts. An album that got into my skin, that’s still curling around in there somewhere like the filigree traces of LSD.
Now I’m dreaming of running away to Nicaragua to disappear somewhere where the routines and the administration can’t get me. I wonder where Robert and the rest of The Cure might be but then I want to remain naive. I want them to stay just as I remembered them when I was a teenager and I wonder if they ever think of us. All those 80s kids they damaged so perfectly. Running to their hearts to be near.
What’s your favourite album? We’d like to hear from readers and will be publishing your best choices at the end of the week. Please email 100 words on your choice to James Whitmore at [email protected]
Are you an academic who would like contribute to this series? Please contact James Whitmore or Suzy Freeman-Greene
Sally Breen does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.