[Review] The Cure: Seventeen Seconds (1980)

This is the first Cure album that really feels like a Cure album: dark, gothic and drearily wonderful.

Kronomyth 2.0: A heavenly seventeen.

The opening argument for The Cure’s new, dark manifesto is two minutes of instrumental music that creeps like a cool mist over a moonlit cemetery. In other words, this is the first record that actually sounds like a Cure record in all of its psychedelic, gothic glory. The vision is still a little murky here, but all the familiar pieces were beginning to take shape: Robert Smith’s pained and vulnerable voice, the flanged guitars, atmospheric keyboards and seductively slinky bass lines. Songs like “A Forest,” “In Your House” and “Play For Today” begin to carve out a distinctive and effective style for The Cure that builds on the sound of contemporaries like Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Wire, and adds the gilding of a beautiful melancholy to it.

The lyrical imagery invokes darkness, night and cold; lovers are lost in the forest, dreams are dead. It isn’t nihilism so much as a natural affinity for the night and the dark reflections it inspires. Suspended in the act of introspection, time loses meaning as the remembrances of sweetness and sadness are eternally savored. Seventeen years become seventeen seconds that feel like an eternity in the gothic midnight of the mind.

With Laurence Tollhurst and Simon Gallup on board, the core lineup of The Cure was now intact. Subsequent albums would refine the vision, delve into darker places with lurid detail and finally emerge at the end of the mind’s tunnel into a brighter, better place. Three Imaginary Boys, as good as it is, remains something of a false start. Seventeen Seconds is the beginning of a much longer, deeper journey and a logical starting place for longtime fans.

Original LP Version

A1. A Reflection (2:08)
A2. Play For Today (3:38)
A3. Secrets (3:19)
A4. In Your House (4:06)
A5. Three (2:35)
B1. The Final Sound (0:52)
B2. A Forest (5:54)
B3. M (3:03)
B4. At Night (5:54)
B5. Seventeen Seconds (4:01)

All titles written by Simon Gallup, Matthieu Hartley, Robert Smith and Laurence Tollhurst.

2005 reissue bonus disc
1. I’m A Cult Hero
2. I Dig You
3. Another Journey By Train (home demo)
4. Secrets (home demo)
5. Seventeen Seconds (live)
6. In Your House (live)
7. Three (alt studio mix)
8. I Dig You (live)
9. I’m A Cult Hero (live)
10. M (live)
11. The Final Sound (live)
12. A Reflection (live)
13. Play For Today (live)
14. At Night (live)
15. A Forest (live)

The Players

Simon Gallup (bass), Matthieu Hartley (keyboards), Robert Smith (guitar, vocals), Laurence Tollhurst (drums). Produced by Robert Smith and Mike Hedges, assisted by Chris Parry and M L S; engineered by Mike Hedges and Mike Dutton.

The Pictures

Cover art by Bill Smith and The Cure. Photography by Andrew Douglas.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on April 18, 1980 in the UK (Fiction, FIX 004), Australia (Sire, 250621-1/4) and Germany (Fiction, 0060.305). Reached #20 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee, cassette and compact disc in 1988 in the US (Elektra, 60784-1/4/2).
  2. Re-issued on elpee on December 1, 1990 in Japan (Polydor, POCP-1873).
  3. Re-released on remastered, expanded 2CD in 2005 in the US (Rhino, R2 74682).
  4. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2006 in the US (Rhino, R2 73349).
  5. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2008 in Japan (Fiction, UICY-93478).
  6. Re-issued on expanded 180g vinyl 2LP in 2008 the UK (Vinyl Lovers, VL990358LP).
  7. Re-issued on 140g white vinyl elpee in 2008 in the EU (Vinyl Lovers, 990359).
  8. Re-issued on 180g vinyl in 2011 in the Netherlands (Music on Vinyl, MOVLP394).

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