In the first half of the 80s, The Cure were a game changer band in the music world. Led by Robert Smith’s songwriting skills and unique voice, the band brought an underground rock attitude and Gothic looks in pop music. For the first time, one could dance to strange music (in the dark, alone).

Their second album, “Seventeen Seconds”, released in April of 1980, starts with what Smith, drummer Lol Tolhurst and new comers Simon Gallup on bass (who replaced Michael Dempsey) and Matthieu Hartley on keyboards do best: a minimalist song using a few simple chords on the guitar and very few notes on the piano. Here’s A Reflection for you to start with and set the mood. The whole ambiance of a room can be transformed with these few notes.

 

Then, the four boys align great songs that are all molded the same way: a simple electronic beat, cool sounding effects on guitars, melodic bass lines and scowling vocals that make Smith sound like a hung up teenager. Play For Today, Secrets and In Your House are three strong songs that will mark The Cure’s repertoire forever, as well as the teenage years of millions of confused kids who will connect with its gloomy ambiance.

In those days, bands like The Cure needed to be searched to be found, at least here in Canada. Radio played pop songs from ABBA, Olivia Newton-John or rock bands like Pink Floyd (“The Wall” was released in December of 1979), during 1980… The most underground music heard were the B-sides of English bands like Duran Duran, who were pretty much labeled as pop stars (rightfully) or Depeche Mode. Sisters of Mercy and The Smiths got a few fans here and there. Bands like Joy Division or XTC didn’t reach a lot of Quebec ears in the early 80s.

 

Dark underground music with gloomy and depressing lyrics like The Cure’s Three, A Forest or the short instrumental interlude The Final Sound just didn’t get any airtime anywhere but on obscure college radios or late night discovery shows, like Claude Rajotte’s New Music Foundation on CHOM.

Yes, one could argue that many of these songs sound the same and almost feel like they start with the same guitar licks and structure, but that’s the whole point of building a mood ans keeping it although the 36 minutes of the album. This was the only Cure record keyboardist Matthew Hartley participated in as he couldn’t continue to play single notes melodies that Smith wanted on the band’s songs. They would only be three Cure members on the next album, 1981’s “Faith”, as Smith handled keyboards himself.

the cure 1980

Smith, Hartley, Gallup and Tolhurst

As a matter of fact, The Cure ceased to be an interesting band when they lost their minimalist approach in the second half of the 80s. Songs became predictable, and even though Smith wrote excellent songs like Pictures of You, Friday I’m in Love and Lovesong in the later 80s, they never were as strong on the ambiance front.

“Seventeen Seconds” is one of the best Cure albums there is, released a year after their maiden album, the brilliant “Three Imaginary Boys”, which included such classics as Boys Don’t Cry and 10:15 Saturday Night. “Seventeen Seconds” is a flawless album, an absolute gem that made it through the years.

THE CURE
Seventeen Seconds
(Fiction Records, 1980)

-Genre: new wave gothic rock
-In the same mood as Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier
Fondateur et rédacteur en chef
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Mélomane invétéré et rédacteur agréé, Nicolas pratique la critique en mode olympique: il parle de tout, tout le temps, depuis 1991. Il a publié 4 500 critiques de disques et concerts dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Nicolas a publié "Les perles rares et les grands crus de la musique" en janvier 2013, un ouvrage de 1250 pages en deux tomes.