Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me was the Cure’s first album following 1986 breakthrough Standing On A Beach, a singles collection that made a solid case for Robert Smith as pop genius instead of squawking goth goof-off. Kiss Me was his blatant plea to be loved: “Kiss me, your tongue tastes like poison,” he warbles on opener “The Kiss,” as lurching wah-wah pedals churn out a monotonous anti-riff aimed at scaring away the preppy newcomers. Smith pens the prettiest pop (“Catch,” “Just Like Heaven”), unleashes seven minutes of sitar-driven stonerdom (“The Snakepit”), uses accordions to punctuate Parisian travelogues (“How Beautiful You Are”), plays with psychedelic Hendrixian guitar textures (“Like Cockatoos”) and—as always—lets bassist Simon Gallup have all the best riffs and melodies.
Nothing is fruitier, however, than “Why Can’t I Be You?” an R&B rave-up that sounds like every light-loafered boy’s first step out of the closet and into the salvation of soul music, where he sees his Diana Ross drag-queen fantasy come true. The flip side to Smith’s romantic idealist is his destructive killjoy; “Shiver And Shake” could well be a school shooter’s suicide note. “I like it when that lightning comes,” Smith sings on “Hot Hot Hot!!”; sadly, that lightning would only strike once more, on 1989’s Disintegration, before the Cure became a faded memory of its former self. Maybe that kiss did taste like poison after all.