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The Cure – Seventeen Seconds (1980)

May 7, 2014

[Album 309/1001]220px-Seventeen_Seconds

Seventeen Seconds is not a great record.

Instead, it is the early sound of a band that would one day become great.  One of the greatest.

The Cure’s second album is like the second season of Seinfeld (speaking of the greats): a time of foot-finding, some solid moments, full of potential but not yet fully realized.

Not everyone likes The Cure.  Or Seinfeld.  In fact, I’d wager many people have no use whatsoever for The Cure or Seinfeld.

The main objections?  The voices.  What’s Robert Smith whining about now?  What are Jerry/George/Elaine/Kramer yelling about this time?

Such criticisms are fine with me as it confirms my theory about legen-(wait for it)-dary artists: the true greats are polarizing.

Whereas his voice may be a deterrent for some otherwise would-be fans, Robert Smith’s voice is integral to the songs.

The instrumentation typically compliments his voice nicely which is perhaps why I’m not as enamored with early Cure records.  Lush arrangements on later records provide a beautiful contrast with the lyrics; without them on Seventeen Seconds, it’s all a bit minimalist & stark for my tastes.

The atmosphere is still sufficiently gloomy (it is The Cure after all) but it’s missing a lot of the staggered entries & lovely layering found in later tunes like Fascination Street or Pictures of You.

The succinct but stellar M is the standout here, though it’s surprisingly absent from the Staring At The Sea singles compilation.

Although I applaud completists, I (at least for now) continue to stand by the assertion that the Staring At The Sea collection is an adequate representation of The Cure up to but not including Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.

That being said, just about every note from there until the end of 2000’s Bloodflowers is  absolutely essential.

It’s always nice to revisit favourite artists and quite frankly, I adore The Cure.

How much?

Well, for starters, this is the poster I woke up to every morning as a 12-year old:



Totally normal bedroom decor for a 12-year old!

The poster may not be on the wall anymore but 20 years later, The Cure is still one of my Top 5 artists of any letter.

From → 1980s

  1. Awww, look at Robert put the carrot nose on the snowman!

    • It’s one of the last activities I would have pictured the band doing together – not your typical photo-op!

      • Not at all! I have a lot of respect for the Cure. I didn’t think much of their too-cool fans when I was in high school, but that was a looong time ago 🙂

  2. The Cure are the type of band whom I have the greatest hits and like the songs I hear, but have never spent much time trying to get into them.

    • The hits are probably the strongest songs in the catalogue but they also had an amazing string of B-sides in the 90s.

      You mentioned the Crow the other day – their tune Burn on that soundtrack is a good example of the strength of the songs that didn’t end up on proper albums!

  3. ianbalentine permalink

    Nonono, one NEEDS The Head On The Door! Agree that the earlier stuff is best on that wonderful comp, which is in dire need of a sonic makeover if you ask me!

    • haha – you’re right, just rechecked the tracklist for The Head on the Door.
      I thought so long as the comp had Close To Me/In Between Days/A night like this all was well, but in hindsight, it’s not to be missed!

      I believe this was where that great layering really got underway, Close to me building up from the bass & handclaps nicely.

      Can you single out a favourite? Wish was my gateway so that will always be up there for me, but then again Wild Mood Swings/Bloodflowers are equally excellent.

      • ianbalentine permalink

        I was first introduced to the Cure via an EP called The Walk, which still has one of the best covers of all time and contained the title track, and The Upstairs Room, which I still think sounds great. My favorite is definitely Head On The Door, although Disintegration is pretty close second. I am rather fond of The Top as well, which most folks find their weirdest. If you can find it, grab Smith’s Beatles homage side project, The Glove, too. If you already have it I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

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