Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Cure - Faith (1981)

Here's another one I bought when it came out, albeit as a cassette because it had a film soundtrack for something called Carnage Visors on the other side, which seemed like a good deal. My dad bought a new family music centre that Christmas, and somehow I managed to persuade the folks to let me play Carnage Visors on it as we ate Christmas dinner, myself, my parents, and my granny. I still have the tape, although it's in a cardboard box full of other tapes presently on a different continent, but the memory was of sufficient strength as to cause me to shell out for this vinyl reissue when I saw it in Hogwild, my local independent record store.

It feels weird buying a Cure record in 2016, not least because I've hated everything they did since this one, pretty much. Love Cats was shit. That mega-twee Caterpillar song was wank served with a soup├žon of shit, toss, and arse. Lewis Carroll through a flange pedal worked fine for Siouxsie & the Banshees who at least had the sense to move on once the affectation had done it's job. Since Faith the Cure have been a fat clown crying into his guitar, as Henry Rollins memorably, entertainingly, and accurately put it. I've heard Pornography but I can't remember a thing about it beyond that it failed to change my mind. Faith was the last good thing where the Cure are concerned. This was where it came to an end, but Jesus - what a record to go out on. Seriously, you should hear this thing.

This was the Cure as a Joy Division tribute act, so ran the generalisation, although listening to it now the differences seem too pronounced to take seriously. At most they were Joy Division without the Black Sabbath, and it's not exactly like the Divs were the only band placing this sort of stark emphasis on their rhythm section that year. Not even the mood is particularly similar. Without bothering to check, I vaguely recall reading that Robert Smith was massively depressed around the time of recording Seventeen Seconds and this one, and it shows; but it goes beyond boo hoo into near existential nausea, the numb, almost comforting feeling of understanding that there's no point to anything. The mood is as much to do with a distracted guitar jangling away and bearing no resemblance to anything on Unknown Pleasures, as Smith's disconsolate wail - a voice that became an unlistenable whine on later records but here works beautifully; and beyond the voice and the guitar there's all that space betwixt the twinned basses and percussion so dry it sounds vacuum sealed, and it seems like there's something haunting all that space between but you really have to listen closely to pick it up.

There's not a poor song on here, and at a perfect eight tracks it's too short to outstay its welcome, and - fucking hell - All Cats Are Grey is one of the greatest things ever recorded, working that sombre mood like not even Elgar managed. Lordy, the Cure were really something back then. It's a shame they couldn't have just called it a day after this masterpiece.

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