Saturday, 26 August 2017

Top Ten Albums - The Head on the Door

I had intended to nominate The Cure's first singles compilation "Standing on a Beach" as my next top ten album. I found it through the pages of Smash Hits magazine and the JHQ Rheindahlen record library. From the rudimentary Killing an Arab to the accomplished performance of In Between Days, there was a strong and obvious strain of genius running through every song. In 1986, and for the next five years, I had found my New Favourite Band.

The joy of getting into the Cure just after the release of Standing on a Beach was that, until "The Head on the Door", Bob Smith had resolutely refused to release more than one single off any album. Punk, y'see.

This meant that on a compilation of 13 classics, there was a rich back catalogue of albums waiting to be excavated: "Three Imaginary Boys", "Seventeen Seconds", "Faith", "Pornography", "Japanese Whispers" (itself a sort-of compilation), "The Top" and The Head on the Door. All lined up and good to go.

So, for me, Standing on a Beach was the gateway drug to The Cure, and a world of adolescent hero worship which made Robert Smith the only person I've avoided saying hello to (when given the chance at the 1997 Xfm launch party).

Having devoured Standing on a Beach (and the legacy videos from  "Staring at the Sea"), I started working backwards - first stop: The Head on The Door.

This is the best Cure album, the best goth pop album and, in my indie-tainted eyes, one of the best albums ever made. The opener, In Between Days, is as joyous a song as you'll ever hear despite lyrics which begin "Yesterday I got so old, I felt like I could die..."

Close to Me is a finger-clicking, swinging pop tune about what appears to be an awkward drug comedown and A Night Like This is genuinely epic. Easily the best thing on the album despite never being released as a single in the UK. 

There's more - Push is the distilled sound of indie-guitar exuberance and Sinking, which ends the The Head on The Door, contains recurring Smith themes - existential angst, aging and drowning (cf La Ment, DisintegrationFaith, The Same Deep Water As You and, er, The Drowning Man), but deals with them in a very matter of fact, confessional style. The fillers (Kyoto Song, The Baby Screams, Screw) are all perfectly performed/produced pop turns.

It is a great album from a band whose time was just about to come. The Head on The Door's brilliance pushed me further back into The Top, "Concert", Japanese Whispers, Pornography, Faith, Seventeen Seconds, Three Imaginary Boys and then forwards into "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me" and "Disintegration". And two excellent concerts on the Kiss Me and Disintegration tours in Köln and London respectively. And, very briefly, hair like this:

On a side note, last year I was trying to write a script and ended up initiating a facebook discussion about the best Cure album. I fought THotD's corner whilst battling many Disintegration all-comers. In the end a friend of mine whose knowledge of the Cure is far deeper than mine suggested I might have made him think again, and as he was involved with Bestival, which happened to have the Cure headlining that August, would I care to avail myself of a pair of complimentary tickets to watch Bob in action one more time. Yessir I would. I took a dear friend, met up with my old friend and watched a band winging its way through its fifth decade in style. Thanks to all involved.

The Head on The Door is the album I've chosen to represent my 31 year love affair with The Cure, and I'm pleased to do it on the 32nd anniversary of its release*. Thank you, Bob. I hope if we ever do meet, I won't mess it up.


* Thanks to Matt for reminding me.

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