The Cure is known primarily to the music public at large as the one goth band that became massively successful on the pop charts (on more than one occasion). And for all the presumed doom and gloom of their music, much of the music of the Cure, especially as they evolved in their career, was fun and rooted firmly in pop music.
“The Head on the door” is the album that does well to showcase this. But since the formula of melodic verse-chorus-verse is used by a band very knowledgeable at using texture to aid their sound, the songs end up sounding like an alternative/college rock mix tape instead of a Top 40 playlist.
It’s odd that while contemporaries of the Cure like Joy Division, the Smiths or Siouxsie and the Banshees are constantly praised by critics for their far reaching artistic merits, the Cure seem to get viewed as a band that will appeal to a small few, goth rock faithful. In certain ways, the Cure was one of the most adventurous alternative rock bands throughout it’s career, while cleverly disguising themselves as a goth band. This perhaps allowed them to use this album as a platform for experimentation. There is the disco rhythm of “Close to me” , flamenco guitars on “The Blood” or the catchy, made for radio “In between days”. Furthermore, the Cure was now making the type of videos that MTV could easily play and that look like precursors to the comedy sketches of the Mighty Boosh.
“The Head on the door” is the middle point between the debut of “Three imaginary boys” and the Cure’s masterwork “Disintegration” splitting the difference very well. It’s the point in the group’s career where the songwriting and playing abilities are functioning well enough for Robert Smith to experiment freely with any type of sounds and arrangements without seeming to worry much about bad fan reactions.
Not coincidentally this is also the album that began the Cure’s run of successful singles and albums outside of the U.K. They would continue to enjoy this success for years and in many ways would write their way into being perhaps the only goth-rock band that pop enthusiasts know anything about.