The Cure - Seventeen Seconds
In the end, the mainstream decided that having the Cure as part of the mainstream would detract from the pretty boys in the new romantic bands which dominated the charts at the time and ultimately the mainstream excluded the band from the party. Not that this bothered Robert Smith, or the Cure as a whole for that matter. Not being associated with the bland and anodyne pap that the radio stations were once again beginning to churn out was no sad loss.
Seventeen Seconds is pure post punk when all is said and done. The marriage of the stark and sparse sound of the Gang of Four, coupled with the miserableness of Joy Division and a lead singer who was, in many ways the prototype of the apparently disinterested loner, places the band as very much a product of their time. That they have not perhaps got the belated recognition as post punks which others have achieved is largely due to the fact that the Cure, unlike so many others, survived.
At this stage in their career they were often, quite unfairly in my view, spoken of in the same breath as bands like Depeche Mode and Duran Duran. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Cure never wrote pop songs as such: they might occasionally write a song which could be used as one, but that was co-incidence rather than design. OK, they may have shared the bizarre hair of some of their contemporaries, but the similarities tend to end there.
The album contains a surprisingly varied mix of tracks. There are the keyboard led instrumental such as the opener; the proto-Goth "Three"; and of course such post punk classics as "Play for Today", "M" and the best track on the album, "A Forest". It is with tracks like those that the Cure set out their stall for the future. Taut yet sparse and with lyrics redolent with emotional distress delivered in a cold and dispassionate almost monotone plaintiff wail, any deficiencies Robert Smith had in the vocal department were never totally left exposed to the vicissitudes of public scrutiny. The Cure were the Cure. They were there and accepted as being there - irrespective of whether you liked them or not,
The difference between the Cure and most other post punk bands of the time is the use of a drum machine which, while it adds to the minimalist effect, at times becomes overpowering in its rigorous precision. I tended to overlook the Cure at the time, dipping in only when a superb track like "Primary" or "Charlotte Sometimes" surfaced, or when they released the spectacular live album Concert. Yet with the passing of time, the Cure appealed more and more as their corpus of work, huge and varied as it is, set them apart from their early contemporaries. Looking back, most of their early work should have received much more acclaim than it did, especially from me.
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