One of the great pop songs from the 1980s, "In Between Days" has the Cure concocting an irresistible combination of musical elements for an undeniably energetic single: danceability and emotion, organic and acoustic instruments with synthesized textures, ebullience, love, desperation, and regret. The beat is insistent, the bass and guitar lines slinky, the melody infectious, hummable, and a bit sad. The song is for those who like the bitter with the sweet and who are capable of dancing, feeling, thinking, and singing at the same time.
At the time -- 1985 -- "In Between Days" was at once comfort food for the soul and a challenging new sound that made sense of a myriad of disparate influences. To be sure, the rubbery lead bass line was almost straight out of New Order bassist Peter Hook's playbook. And the grounding in warm, human, and friendly acoustic sounds of techno-synth also represents a give and take between the Cure and such colleagues. The driving beat -- all overdubbed layers of drums and nonstop 16th-note guitar strumming -- can have its source traced to Spanish and Brazilian (and subsequently African) roots. The beat is so danceable that there is no need for sequencers, samples, or beat boxes -- though "In Between Days" was successfully remixed for the 1990 collection Mixed Up.
Robert Smith wisely allows the arrangement to go around one full time, establishing the various musical hooks and themes, before entering with the song's beautiful melody and harmony. He offers a poignant, vulnerable, almost Dylanesque lyric of regret and plea for forgiveness: "Yesterday I got so old I felt like I could die/Yesterday I got so old it made me want to cry/Go on, go on, just walk away/Go on, go on, your choice is made/Go on, go on, and disappear/Go on, go on, away from here/And I know I was wrong when I said it was true/That it couldn't be me/And be her in between without you."
Though the song and the LP Head on the Door were the biggest commercial breakthrough in America for the band, the record oddly failed to crack the Top 40, a lack of commercial success that belied their status as pop stars overseas and the impressive and ever-increasing cult-sized audience they had cultivated in the States.