The Cure - Faith
Faith is an album which straddles two separate incarnations of the Cure - a band which provided the acceptable (to the mainstream) face of post-punk on the one hand, to the dreary, suicidal Goths beloved of those with miserable lives. Faith is the moment at which the Cure had to take a decision as to which they would be. Subsequent albums suggested that they turned to the latter.
The cover of the album gives an indication of what lies within. A grey smudge which could be a landscape or a person (I believe it is based on a Porl Thompson photo of Bolton Abbey in the mist) creates the impression you get when you look out of a window on a rainy day. Inside, the album begins and ends with Robert Smith bemoaning his lack of faith (in the traditional sense of the word) while suggesting that it has been replaced with a belief, if not a faith in something else. The band had by now revered to a three person outfit with Smith undertaking the dual roles of guitar and keyboards, and this resulted in a change in the overall musical construction of the tracks. The rhythm section is stripped down a lot more and it often sounds as if the drums were recorded in the nave of some cavernous church, such is the resonant quality they possess. Yet the music foreshadows the gloomy synth driven material which would come to the fore on Pornography a year later. Yet whereas Pornography was a lush expression of self-doubt, misery and suicidal tendencies, Faith is very much the stripped down, no frills version.
And yet the album has almost upbeat moments. "Primary" was and remains one of the best ever Cure songs, and though its subject matter may be less than upbeat, the twin guitars cascading over a solid up-tempo foundation show that the Cure had lost none of their post-punk persona, they just seemed to want to bury it in something else. Similarly, "Doubt" follows pretty much the same pattern and it is not hard, when listening to the two tracks, to get the impression that they are so close musically as to be almost variations on a theme.
But it is the more depressing angle which dominates this album. "The Funeral Party" is pretty much what its title would cause you to think it would be. The same can be said for "The Drowning Man". In both cases, Smith has selected themes of commonplace misery and, like a suicidal Spinal Tapper, turned the misery dial on the amp up to eleven. The album's mid-point, "All Cats Are Grey", sees Smith almost dispense with lyrics altogether, amid a sea of almost ambient, droning synthesisers lasting over five minutes. If any track were to sum up the direction the Cure were about to take for the future, that is it.
Like a lot of Cure albums, Faith is difficult to listen to at times. Apart from "Primary" and "Doubt" it is almost formless insofar as casual listening will blend all the tracks together into a shapeless mass of unhappiness and depression. It lacks instantly recognisable hooks or lyrical flashes which stick in your mind. Rather like wet charcoal it takes a lot of time to get going and when it does, it burns slowly with clouds of thick dense smoke. It does require what may be regarded as active listening to begin to appreciate the tracks as individual pieces. The trouble is, in so doing, it becomes a difficult album to listen to in another sense, a wrist-slittingly difficult album. Looking back across the decades, it has lost some of its original shine, but it still retains some of its attraction, even if the gloom and despondency has been done by so many other bands, and by the Cure themselves, better than on this album.
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