The Cure – Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
Released May 25th, 1987 on Fiction Records and Elektra Records
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me marks the indelible transfer of The Cure from dense gloomsters to buoyant Eighties pop stars. 1982’s Pornography marked the peak of the band as the poster children for goth as both a musical expression and a fashion choice. The Top and The Head On The Door are bridges, with former being the album where they experimented messily with their form and largely failed, and the latter being the same but a success. Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me took the expansive vision that Robert Smith had been trying to articulate and blew it up into ridiculous proportions. The album was long, especially by 1987 standards; it took up two LPs and clocked in at just under 80 minutes. It was a collection that emphasized the best parts of each of their last three albums; there was Pornography-era chorus-laden guitar grind (as on the opener “The Kiss”, “Tortureor ), experiments with sound, form, and culture (“If Only Tonight We Could Sleep”, “The Snakepit”) and balls-out brassy pop (“Why Can’t I Be You?”, “Hot Hot Hot!”). “Catch”, “The Perfect Girl”, and “Just Like Heaven” are quirky love songs without parallel. “Like Cockatoos” and “Icing Sugar” marry their earlier crushing pomp with pop brassiness, a preview of what Kiss Me‘s follow-up, Disintegration would hold (although the ribbon of saxophone on the latter is something that didn’t show up nearly enough in the band’s work afterward). While a career retrospective shows Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me to be something of a hot mess compared to the best Cure records, the album contains some of their very best compositions and, when it falters, some songs that at least make an attempt at pushing the group’s peculiar sense of artistry over.
LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
Released March 12th, 2007 on DFA/Capitol Records
Who sounds like they’re having more fun than James Murphy? In the middle of the Oughts, people thought dance-punk was something that honestly sounded like a good idea, probably because they heard a couple of old Gang Of Four records and thought they could inject some irony into the proceedings and call it a day (The Rapture). Along with a number of groups who thought they could get along doing the same thing, James Murphy started putting out a string of singles on his co-owned DFA Records label that were along similar lines to the other stuff that was going on in 2005, with a key difference: Murphy and LCD Soundsystem weren’t afraid to get funny as well as funky; it was this combination that made their early singles such successes, and their self-titled debut such a critical darling.
Sound Of Silver, their sophomore effort, turns that idea on it’s head. To be sure, it’s still funny as hell: the self-deprecating party kids of “North American Scum” make for great fun; the chorus of “Sound Of Silver” is good for a rueful grin. What Sound Of Silver really is, though, is poignant, and it rides that particular aspect far better than LCD Soundsystem rode snarky humour. “Someone Great” looks back on the lost, both broken relationships and dead people; “All My Friends” contains the immortal line “You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan / and the next five years trying to get with your friends again.” “Us Vs. Them” feels alienated from the crowd and all the sad drunk boys on their knees; “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” is exactly what it says on the tin – a nostalgia for the old septic New York City and an admission that sometimes the modern theme park version of NYC can get a little much.
Wrapping all of this feels is a slick, eminently danceable disco-punk that keeps moving without stopping (until the end, of course; “New York” is the perfect comedown for a sweat-filled night out). The effect is that Sound Of Silver sounds like a night out with your friends, the ones you haven’t seen in forever but for whom it feels as though no time at all has passed. You want the night to last forever and for a while it feels like it will but eventually you get exhausted and the city seems like a vulture waiting to pick your bones clean and then the sun comes up and there’s one last fleeting bit of glory before you stumble through the dawn streets to find your bed so you can collapse and pass out. It’s as much fun as it sounds.
NZCA Lines – Infinite Summer
Released January 22nd, 2016 on Memphis Industries
Some have opined recently – in forums, at any rate – that the concept album is dead. This rather bizarre pronouncement is typically preceded by a question, something along the lines of “What was the last concept album you heard?” and expounded upon by a legion of adolescent rockists talking about The Wall, and why no one makes albums like The Wall anymore, and about how this is somehow indicative of the general death of music at the hands of those awful soulless pop stars.
The problem here is that every one of these people expects their concept albums to sound exactly like The Wall: dreary, overly grandiose, weighted down with its Very Important Conceptualizations and dripping with self-indulgent notions of Art, notions that are seemingly inextricably tied with bluesy guitar solos and radio singles. Thus, when an album like The Monitor, or Hospice, or good kid m.A.A.d. city comes along, their status as being a “concept album” is dismissed in these circles as they’re “too noisy”, or “too indie”, or “hip hop”. The kids wearing t-shirts of their parent’s generation will never accept them because they didn’t live through the 1970s or they’re not beaten to death by Rolling Stone.
Infinite Summer is another one of those albums. Michael Lovett, along with Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley and Sarah Jones of Hot Chip, has put together a science fiction story that has a lot in common with the sort of mystical concepts prog bands used to drown their albums in during the latter half of the 1970s. The sun has grown to the size of a red giant, and the destruction of the world is imminent. Half of the world, a sweltering urban jungle, has decided to give up and embrace the destruction; the other half believes that there’s still something worth fighting for and wants to figure out how to rebuild civilization into something lasting. In true Matrix-style fashion, both sides have time to throw a gigantic rave.
The dismissal invariably occurs here because of the fact that this is a concept album built around synths, processed guitars, smooth vocals, and the legacy of Daft Punk. It’s a relentlessly moving Europop-style album, and its disco bona fides mean it’ll never be accepted by the rockists as being a “true” concept album. Granted, the idea kind of falls apart when everyone starts dancing despite the impending doom of the human species, but at the same time it works, given that it seems like the sort of thing the human race would do in it’s hour of destruction. The tracks also get a bit same-y for something so conceptual, but there’s always something you can hang your hat on for the next listen, so each spin of the record brings you deeper into its folds. That there are a lot folds here is testament to the trio creating it; it’s at once sweaty, romantic, and stylishly aloof, and in the place where these three meet is a great big heart beating for all of us.
Not every concept album needs to sound like The Wall, and Infinite Summer is infinite proof as to why.