The Head on the Door
The Music Box's #7 reissue of 2006
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2006, Volume 13, #9
Written by John Metzger
The making of Pornography nearly tore The Cure apart, and it initially appeared as if the band would not survive its release. Front man Robert Smith was caught between leading his own outfit and playing guitar with Siouxsie and the Banshees. His drug-fueled exhaustion significantly tempered The Cure’s transitional follow-up The Top, an album that remains more important for the groundwork that it laid than for its scattered contents. By 1985, however, Smith had found sobriety, and his personal rejuvenation resulted in the ensemble’s first bonafide classic The Head on the Door, which essentially gave his reconfigured group a new lease on life.
Lyrically, The Head on the Door continued to mine the dark despair of brokenhearted teen angst, and Smith’s dreamlike reflections of death-filled nightmares, disembodied heads, and screaming babies made his emotionally detached portraits of adolescent alienation vivid. The difference, however, is that the oppressiveness of Pornography’s music had given way to a more accessible and appealing style of heady pop. Driven largely by the addition of former Thompson Twins’ drummer Boris Williams as well as Smith’s reunion with bass player Simon Gallup, The Cure embraced an eclectic array of insistent, rhythmic grooves that ranged from the explosive, U2-influenced Push to the flamenco-kissed flourishes of The Blood to the infectious, shimmering swirls of Inbetween Days. Elsewhere, the group reverted back to more ominous textures by slathering the mechanical chug of Kyoto Song with twinkling keyboards, but where the album-ending Sinking previously might have sounded claustrophobic, the ensemble’s new approach lent a more ethereal quality to its arrangement. In the end, The Head on the Door proved to be The Cure’s rebirth, and the concepts and ideas contained on the outing became the touchstones to which the collective returned for the duration of its career.
Like the previous releases in Rhino’s campaign to reissue The Cure’s back catalogue, The Head on the Door features a second disc that is stuffed with an array of studio and home demos along with a handful of bootleg concert selections. None of the material is essential, of course, but it does provide insight to those who care about how the album itself came into being. Not surprisingly, the home recordings largely are skeletal fragments that emphasize the fusion of melody and rhythm, while the studio work is realized more fully. Of particular note is the perky Lime Time which yielded its DNA to both Inbetween Days and Six Different Ways. Elsewhere, Screw sounds like an outgrowth of David Bowie’s canon, and the intensity of The Cure’s stage show radiates through the murkiness of the deluxe edition’s three live cuts (The Baby Screams, The Blood, and Sinking), all of which were recorded in December 1985 at Paris’ Bercy Theatre. Although The Head on the Door wasn’t quite the commercial success for which The Cure had hoped, it certainly paved the way for the better days that lay ahead for the band.
The Head on the Door [Deluxe Edition] —
Bonus Tracks —
The Head on the Door [Original Album] —
The Head on the Door [Deluxe Edition] is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box