56. The Cure - Just Like Heaven

The Cure is one of those bands that have always had a reputation for music about alienation and being an outcast. They didn't fit in and they didn't want to fit in. They were happy with their sadness in some sort of strange way and wrote songs about it. Hell, they practically started the entire goth subculture themselves. Sure Bowie and others wore makeup, but lead singer and major songwriter Robert Smith wore makeup not to enhance his attractiveness, but to enhance his outward appearance showing his disaffection and alienation.

So the last song I would have ever expected from The Cure is the ode to love that is "Just Like Heaven." I never thought I'd hear Robert Smith sing:

Spinning on that dizzy edge
I kissed her face, I kissed her neck
And dreamed of all the different ways
I had to make her glow

But in many ways, The Cure had pushed the envelope of sad bastard music that they and other bands like The Smiths and Depeche Mode could go. So since The Cure had always had a dogma of going against the grain, they decided to go against their own grain and record a happy album. In 1987 they released Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, an album that was much cheerier than their previous efforts, due to Robert Smith's happy relationship with his girlfriend (who went on to become his wife.) The album also had the very poppy tunes "Friday I'm in Love" and "Why Can't I Be You?"

Not to stray too far from their moody past, Smith adds the following:

I opened up my eyes
I find myself alone, alone, alone
Above a raging sea
That stole the only girl I loved
And drowned her deep inside of me.

Now I'm not sure if the last line is a good thing or a bad thing, but since the overall tone of the song is positive, I'll interpret that as that he's absorbed all of her into his heart.

The music matches the relative cheery nature of the lyrics. The song starts with another of those great drum fills from Boris Williams. Williams also plays those great crash cymbals throughout the song. The drums are crisp and clean, very precisely played. Bassist Simon Gallup actually sets the stage with his bass line to go with the drum intro, while the guitars add atmosphere, rather than take center stage. It's one of those great bass lines that come along about as often as Haley's Comet.  And this bass line really does take center stage, making you wish more bassists got their due.  The soaring keyboards throughout the song add to the positive mood of the song, while keeping true to The Cure's established style.

So while it may not be a full-on departure for The Cure, "Just Like Heaven" broke new ground for the band and exposed them to an audience that may have never given them much of a serious listen with their earlier albums. The happy-happy Cure didn't last too long, though, with their next album, Disintegration, showed the band going back to their roots and addressing the darker themes that they were known for. But when they decided to shine, The Cure shone like the sun breaking through the clouds - brilliant streaks of light that need to be appreciated because they'll soon be gobbled back up by the clouds that allowed them to break through in the first place.

For a band that has always been more known for its melancholic strains, it was really nice to see them stretch their musical muscles and give us something that was one of those pleasant surprises that too few bands bother to strive for. And in this case, The Cure going outside of their comfort zone provided them their best song ever. Take note, complacent band (yes, I'm talking to you, Rush), doing something different can pay great dividends.

And it might just get you in an episode of South Park...

I have to apologize for the video below. I wanted to use the album version of "Just Like Heaven" and the only one I could find was some guy's Japanimation version. So if you like anime, you're welcome. If you're not a huge fan, like me, then just ignore the whole video and just listen.

(Fun Fact #271: Robert Smith's official title of "One of the Coolest Guys in the World" was cemented when he appeared in the South Park Mecha Streisand episode in 1998. South Park had become a big hit pretty quick and Trey Parker and Matt Stone had many celebrities asking to be on the show. They declined them all, but the one that Trey Parker specifically asked for was Robert. And so now Robert Smith has entered pop culture history as the robot that defeated Barbra Streisand.)
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