Robert Smith, singer, songwriter, and guitarist of The Cure turns 61 today. The band’s so-called Depression Trilogy and Smith’s fashion sensibilities are like gospel for goth subculture, while their later pop records would top charts around the world. Here are five songs to celebrate his birthday.
“The Caterpillar” - The Top (1984): The Top saw Robert Smith and co. emerging from a very dark period marked by three albums often referred to as The Depression Trilogy. At this time, the band was not making pop songs. They were making songs that would immerse listeners in vast, formless soundscapes of doom and gloom. “The Caterpillar” is packed with pent up longing for something more than that. The song explodes with optimism, a delightful chorus with strummed acoustic guitar, and all the depth and range of Smith’s idiosyncratic voice.
“Close to Me” - The Head on the Door (1985): One of Smith’s earliest and best pop songs. By this point, Smith has cut his pop-songwriting teeth on the excellent The Top and is about to embark on one of the best three album runs of all time (The Head on the Door; Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me; and Disintegration). “Close to Me” is a tightly wound tune filled with flittering bells, keys, and other accents over top a soft organ drone and Smith’s especially expressionist vocals.
“Just Like Heaven” - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987): This is, for all intents and purposes, my favorite pop song. It’s perfect. There’s not a note that I would add, nor one that I would take away: everything is in its right place. “Just Like Heaven” channels the energy from one melody into the next in a way that few songs can. It’s like trying to catch a bar of soap in the shower: every time one clutches at it, the bar shoots out into open space. But there’s no catching it. “Just Like Heaven” is just too fleeting.
“Disintegration” - Disintegration (1989): Dipping back into the dark days of The Depression Trilogy, Smith utilizes the swirling psychedelia of The Cure’s earlier music, but gives it the newfound structure, pep, and most importantly, dynamism of their later work. “Disintegration” is a brooding 8-minute track that emerges from a bottomless monolith of a black hole before reaching its desperately triumphant final passage.
“Friday I’m in Love” - Wish (1992): I wasn’t gonna do it, but what can I say? It’s their best-known song for a reason. “Friday I’m in Love” captures many of The Cure’s best traits, but above all else, it captures Robert Smith’s unparalleled knack for coming up with vocal melodies. Not just catchy ones, but powerful ones, too. Vocal melodies that feel like they’re carrying the weight of every preceding moment of the song. “Friday I’m in Love” is Smith at his best.