With the release of their sixth studio LP, 1985’s The Head On The Door, The Cure embarked on the slow but steady commercial ascent which pulled them clear of cult status and elevated them to the very apex of international rock stardom.
Recorded by a dynamic new line-up featuring Robert Smith, drummer-turned-keyboardist Lol Tolhurst and newly recruited drummer Boris Williams, as well as two returning ex-members, guitarist Porl Thompson and bassist Simon Gallup, the atypically accessible The Head On The Door afforded The Cure their first significant mainstream success. Attracting a series of rave reviews on release, the album went gold on both sides of the Atlantic and yielded two of the band’s most enduring hit singles, ‘In Between Days’ and ‘Close To Me’.
Though the subsequent world tour continued until August 1986, Robert Smith had already been working up a fresh batch of songs. Accordingly, over the winter of 1986, The Cure returned to the studio for a series of sessions with Head… producer David M Allen, and emerged in the spring of ’87 with their most ambitious release to date: the coyly titled double-vinyl set Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me.
Though The Cure were in the ascendency after The Head On The Door, releasing a 20-track, double-disc set running for a challenging 75 minutes was still a gamble. Yet there was method in Robert Smith’s madness, for while Kiss Me… was sprawling and sometimes wilfully eclectic, it was also a brilliant, “White Album”-esque affair which has since gone on to fascinate whole new generations of fans.
Kiss Me… relished taking chances. Few, for example, would have envisaged Smith and co mastering wah-wah-drenched funk (‘Hey You!!!’) or scoring a US club hit with the sweaty, dancefloor-friendly ‘Hot Hot Hot’, yet both were among the record’s triumphs. Ditto the decadent, Motown-inflected UK Top 30 hit ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ which was promoted with a hilarious, Tim Pope-directed video of the band dressed as bears, bumble bees and Morris dancers.
These audacious stylistic coups were, admittedly, tempered by more traditional Cure fare, such as the moody, wracked ‘One More Time’, the looming, opium-laced dreaminess of ‘Snakepit’ and the visceral, Pornography-esque ‘Shiver & Shake’. Yet the album arguably reached its pinnacle with the sublime ‘Just Like Heaven’: a glorious slice of uplifting melancholy which also delivered The Cure into the Top 40 of the US Billboard Hot 100 for the first time.
Kiss Me… aggressively pursued its hit singles up the charts, peaking at No.6 in the UK and at No.35 on the Billboard 200, where it earned the band their first platinum disc. Its impressive performance set the bar high, but when the band returned in 1989 they came touting another artistic triumph in the shape of their goth-rock masterpiece, Disintegration.