1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 195

The Head on the Door, by The Cure
Suggested by Stuart Legg

There’s an overlooked BBC 3 / BBC 2 Sitcom from 2004 called The Smoking Room. Set in the indoor smoking room of a fictitious company, it boasted a fantastic ensemble cast including Robert Webb, Jeremy Swift and Paula Wilcox. The characters would congregate for their smoke breaks and collectively shoot the comedic breeze with one caveat: no shop talk.

It’s a gem of a show, well worth your time if you’re questing for content. It ran for seventeen episodes, which equated to two seasons and a Christmas special, before the plug was pulled. The reason for its cessation was unique: the UK Indoor Smoking Ban came into effect in July 2007, which made the entire premise of the show both obsolete and illegal. It’s not often your favourite show gets mothballed through government legislation.

The Smoking Room used an instrumental version of Close to Me, by the Cure, as its theme music. The original is track seven on The Head on the Door, The Cure’s sixth studio album, released in 1985. It’s an airy and tinkling pop number that showcases some crisp melodic keyboards and a vibrant brass hook that’s oddly omitted from the album version. Even without the brass, it’s my standout track.

I’m largely unfamiliar with The Cure. I know the poptastic Friday I’m In Love and the quirky Lovecats, but that’s it. I’m also aware that they are Goth Royalty, which is surprising if you consider the levels of light and froth all three of the songs mentioned thus far. A cursory glance at the band’s history offers an explanation: it appears they’ve continually flip-flopped between doomladen angst and sticky-sweet pop-rock candy throughout their storied career.

The Head on the Door is a fine fusion of the band’s pessimistic yin and optimistic yang. Musically, there’s a plethora of seemingly upbeat pop tunes, all twinkling keyboards and bouncing basslines. Each is underpinned by Robert Smith’s signature nasal angst-fuelled whine, a modulated oddity that smacks of Bobcat Goldthwaite. The one-two punch of the driven pop Inbetween Days (which conjures up the Lightning Seeds) and the territorial sound of Kyoto Song presents a contrasting style set that both intrigues and excites, but in truth there’s not a bad song on this album. Other highlights include the up-tempo The Baby Screams and euphoric finale Sinking.

I came into this review thinking the gothic stylings of The Cure were likely to seem dated. Like my much-missed Smoking Room, I thought they’d be obsoleted by fresher concepts and ideas. Instead, I find a band refusing to be skewered to any particular spot, able to dance and jig from box to box with a consummate ease. The pure pop of The Head on the Door has earned a deserved 8/10. It may not be representative of their work as a whole, but there’s undisputed talent regardless.

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