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One of the best Cure albums,
This review is from: Seventeen Seconds (Audio CD)The Cure moved from the Buzzcocks meets Pere Ubu sounds of '3 Imaginary Boys' to this place. O.K., it's possibly rooted in the area Joy Division operated in- but then so are songs like 'Mushroom' by Can and 'My Dark Ages' by Pere Ubu. This record is very dark- influenced by Bowie's 'Low', Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks' & Nick Drake's 'Five Leaves Left'. It is very melancholy- the themes seem to be isolation & alienation. Suited to the bleak period in the UK- and sitting well next to records like 'Metal Box', 'Secondhand Daylight', 'Closer' and 'Crocodiles'. This is the sound Robert Smith & co would seem to trademark and return to frequently with records like 'Disintergration' & 'Blood Flowers'.
Opening with the doomy intro, 'A Reflection', the album takes off with 'Play For Today'- with it's great bassline by Simon Gallup and Matthiu Hartley's keyboards. It's very minimal and is the meeting point of songs like 'Boys Don't Cry' & 'A Forest'...'Secrets' is next: a whispered-vocal over a menancing bassline- the drums, being played by the er, minimal Lol Tolhurst are very minimal. They may even be drum machines. The sound of the album is human doubt over a machine beat- the bass-playing and lyrics seeming to be the only human elements. 'In Your House' is a fantastic song, the sound of 'Fire in Cairo' & '3 Imaginary Boys' taken to the next level- Smith's controlled guitars are breathtaking.A big influence on Big Black's 'Bad Houses'! 'Three' sounds like Can or Neu- and could have fitted easily on the formers 'Tago Mago'. Really, what Radiohead are doing now is not that different to what The Cure were doing in 1980...'The Final Sound' leads into 'A Forest', probably one of The Cure's most important songs. The atmosphere builds up- and Smith talks of a dream-like world, seemingly adult with childhood fears (or should that be child with adulthood fears?). That final bass-riff is so simple, yet so enchanting. 'M' is a more keyboard driven track- imagine a more stripped 'Grinding Halt'- as with much of the album it sounds like it's taking place at night-time. At the point where we start to dream- or pace in insomnia...Which leads us to 'At Night', which may just have been influenced by a short-piece by Kafka entitled 'At Night' (see 'The Great Wall of China'). It is probably my fave song here- and one of their best- it seems to be exploring the false idea of security we accept when in the oblivion of sleep. Unknowing of the menace, intangible, that is taking place outside. A paranoid's wet-dream!. The title-track is a drum-machine ordered song, I still haven't got a clue what "17 seconds, is all it takes" refers to. It sounds very sinister- we think of murder or suicide- this is a very bleak record!
And it would get worse, 'Faith' being the biggest downer for me ('Pornography' is alive with anger & rage; 'Disintergration' is serene & holy in some ways). This album captures the melancholy of the passing fade of youth- it makes me think of 'Ghost World' & 'TB Sheets' & 'Beside You' & 'Pink Moon' & 'Northern Sky'& the posthumous albums by Billy Mackenzie. The way Richard E. Grant is at the end of 'Withnail & I'. Or the lead of Bergman's 'Summer with Monika' at that films denoument. Even the notion of Humbert Humbert in 'Lolita'- the reason for his paedophilia is to re-capture a love from his youth...All very interesting and arresting- as is this fine album- which is one of the best releases by The Cure or anyone in the 1980's.