The name's usually abbreviated as "Kiss" but the content of this sprawling splurge of creativity doesn't really deserve shortening. Its wild amount of variety is too much to absorb at one or two listens. I'm not familiar with the Cure's earlier stuff that evolved from post-punk, but maybe the sheer scale and colour of this album (and "Disintegration") appeal to me as a muso.
The characteristic that hits you at first is Robert Smith's manic, bipolar changes in mood. The lyrics' utter gothness comes from their over-sensualisation and exaggeration of simple feelings and events. At one end musically there's the childlike "Why Can't I Be You" such a tantrum of cacophonous pop, yelps and squeals. More successful than this is the "Hot Hot Hot!!!", a funky melting pot of rhythms. Comparatively restrained, except in its punctuation! But even better, the euphoric riff of "Just Like Heaven" holds up perfectly without any accompanying wackiness.
At the other emotional extreme there's the grinds of dense guitars like "The Kiss", the self-explanatory "Torture" and the writhing tentacles of "Snakepit". Mopey, resonant ballads like "One More Time" and "A Thousand Hours" give Smith a chance to squeeze maximum feeling from the lyrics. It finishes with another tick on the emotion list (more usually expressed by punks) on the angry, defiant anthem "Fight". Not to mention a slightly silly curse-filled diatribe, "Shiver and Shake", directed at a certain former band member.
It doesn't all fall into the mopey-perky dichotomy though. More restrained, their flair for elegant folk pop is expressed with "Catch". It's nowhere near "Close to Me", but still simple and wistful. Tracks which show how musically far ahead of most other goth acts they were include the adventurous percussive exotica of "Like Cockatoos", the breathless "Icing Sugar", and the Indian-flavoured "If Only Tonight We Could Sleep". They have a habit of only starting to sing half-way through a lot of the songs - which might annoy punks but tickles my prog-rock receptors. Luckily these "intros" are nearly always interesting in themselves.
Sure, there's a few dips in inspiration, but these can be excused on a double album full of such goodies.
December 15, 2004