The Cure - The Head on the DoorFollowing an inauspicious late 1970s beginning as the hard-to-pigeonhole Easy Cure, Robert Smith's darkly inventive vehicle The Cure slowly grew in popularity to become one of the most influential bands of the '80s and '90s. The band had minor U.S. college radio success with songs such as "Boys Don't Cry," "Killing an Arab," "A Forest" and "The Lovecats," over the course of the first few albums. But it wasn't until the synthesizer keyboard hooks of the singles "Inbetween Days" and "Close to You," from 1985's The Head on the Door album, that the alternative British band truly made a crack in America's charts. That crack grew bigger with the unstoppable singles from the band's next project, 1987's double album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, which featured its first American Top 40 hit in "Just Like Heaven," as well as ”Why Can't I Be You?” and “Hot Hot Hot!!!”

But the success of those albums and singles didn't happen overnight. A handful of albums and six years of concert tours preceded The Head on the Door and for awhile, Robert Smith also moonlighted as the emergency fill-in guitarist for Siouxsie and the Banshees, furthering his growing reputation in alternative circles as the prince of the underground goth music scene.

The Cure - Kiss MeAs part of its ongoing re-issue campaign of The Cure's amazing catalogue, Rhino Records has just reissued The Head on the Door, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and the formative album that preceded the explosive popularity of those two albums, 1984's The Top. Also reissued is The Glove 's Blue Sunshine, a one-off side project that Smith and the Banshees' Steve Severin hatched in 1983.

These albums are, perhaps, the most crucial discs in The Cure's catalogue, documenting Smith's progression from a punkish, experimental songwriter to a master of twisting the pop form to his own darkly introspective ends. Following Kiss Me, The Cure would release its biggest American smash album, Disintegration, which featured the #2 hit “Love Song.”

For Cure fans, these reissues are crucial – because in addition to the discs being remastered for optimum sound quality, each album comes with a second CD completely filled with demos and alternate versions of the songs from the final recording. Listening to the “rarities” discs of each of these albums gives an amazing insight into the progression of The Cure's creative process. Few artists make available this much of their songwriting “journals” for all to hear. But Smith has allowed the issuing of his very simple home demo recordings of key Cure tracks, many of them instrumental renderings, as well as early studio demos and live bootleg recordings. There are more bonus tracks included on each of these releases than there were songs on the original albums, with the exception of “Kiss Me” which offers 18 tracks on both the original album disc and the rarities bonus CD.

The GloveProbably one of the most interesting rarities discs for Cure fanatics will be the second disc of rarities from The Glove's recording sessions. When Severin and Smith booked a studio to record the album, Smith's label reminded him that his contract didn't allow him to sing for groups other than The Cure. The label was getting nervous at the amount of time Smith was taking off from his bread and butter band to play with Siouxsie and the Banshees at the time. While ultimately the label allowed him to record vocals on a couple of Glove tracks (including the disc's best song, “Mr. Alphabet Says”), most of the disc was sung by the girlfriend of another Siouxsie and the Banshees band member. The bonus disc included with The Glove reissue CD offers demo tracks of the entire album (plus some additional songs) featuring the original Robert Smith rough vocals – making this, in a way, the finding of a “lost” Cure album.

For many, the theatrics of Robert Smith's voice and the oft-times gloomy tenor of his guitar explorations are an acquired (or never acquired taste). But if you're a fan, the dozens of demos and live tracks offered between these four albums make all of them a must-have for your shelves – and an important chronicle of a key period in pop music history.