Seventeen Seconds by The Cure

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Seventeen Seconds by The Cure
Seventeen Seconds by The Cure

Album Released: 1980

Seventeen Seconds ::: Artwork

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1.A Reflection2:12
2.Play For Today3:40
4.In Your House4:07
6.The Final Sound0:52
7.A Forest5:54
9.At Night5:54
10.Seventeen Seconds4:00


As bassist Michael Dempsey apparently didn't like Robert Smith's new lyrics or songs, Simon Gallup enters to play bass. There's also a keyboard player here, so The Cure become a proper four-piece of guitars/vocals, keyboards, bass, and drums.

Perversely, they sound much less like an actual band here than they did on their debut. For whilst they sound more focused and tight and have certainly got better, where are the live-sounding drums, where are the rock and roll guitars? Well, nowhere to be seen - Seventeen Seconds has a drum pattern that remains the same throughout the album, with only subtle variations in speed, sometimes not even that! The bass also varies only enough to pick out different moods. Such factors make it an album quite hard to actually write about.

Robert Smith hadn't been too happy with Three Imaginary Boys. So Seventeen Seconds is deliberately more cohesive, to the extent that yeah, all the songs seem to sound more or less the same. Yet, there's different lyrics, different tempos, different guitar melodies, and different bass patterns, even though all the guitar parts use the same tone, and all the bass guitar parts use the same tone too. Ahem.

It's certainly an interesting album on a first or second listen, as the sounds all merge together song after song, yet only "A Forest" and "Play For Today" immediately jump out as proper melodic pop songs. As with all of Seventeen Seconds, they're similar yet different, it's an album that in a way relies on its lyrics.

So Robert Smith attempts here to make an album that works entirely, without obvious highs or lows, with a set mood that's nevertheless varied, however it's let down by the lack of an overall concept or a particular reason to be. Still, it was a step forward for The Cure, a leap in sound they would subsequently come back to and expand upon.

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning (blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews)

Seventeen Seconds is a complicated album, but somehow more clear-headed than Boys Don't Cry, which often sounded like the band were faking it. Here, The Cure sound too convincingly focused to be anything but genuine.

So - this is what The Cure is - even if they had to learn a lot of it from debut albums by Public Image Limited and Joy Division. Both of those bands attacked this kind of material with a million times more conviction and intensity than The Cute clan does, and while it was pretty apparent that Ian Curtis was an honest-to-goodness clinically-depressed human being a lot of the time, in 1980 Robert Smith was more sullenly 'French' than really suicidal. Sullen. Dumpy. Constipated. In need of a good slapping.

But Robert Smith, possessor of a twangy complaintive singing voice, and featuring the thickest British accent ever put to tape, a middlebrow hero who idolized other Eurotrash middlebrow heroes, had obviously found his niche. But as he just doesn't have the passion or talent to make a decent album out of his gripey feelings, he ends up making a dull and uneventful one instead.

Though The Cure have discovered echo - and synthesized whooshes - to tack onto their dinky band sound, the material still sounds unformed and skeletal, and there's a distinct lack of intensity to the playing that suggests they still don't really know what they're doing with their instruments.

So Seventeen Seconds is like an indie movie - nothing much has happened after 40 minutes, but you're sure it turned out exactly as intended. So I'm not mentioning any of the songs, because they all sound exactly alike ... same twinky guitar tone, same disco-for-sops drumbeat, same loping tempos ... hell, I'm not even going to touch the lyrics, just take it on faith that this album, though not necessarily irritating, is about as interesting as watching C-Span, except not as disturbing (C-Span = US 'public service' cable TV - Editor).

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by Reviewer: Capt Bonanza (blogging at Capn Marvel's Bonanza [Defunct])

Who'd have guessed The Cure would so quickly become all Goth and gloomy? It was only a year earlier they were playing "Boys Don't Cry" and "Grinding Halt" - now it's all "Secrets" and "At Night" ...

But hold your horses, depressed suicidal kids. This album is ... well, not very good. It's decent, but not great. The main thing is that The Cure weren't ready to start doing this kind of music right away - they wanted to sound mature and sad, but they just weren't fit for it.

Seventeen Seconds ends up sounding like the product of a little kid who heard too much Pink Floyd, trying to do the same thing. Gone are the fast punkish pace, the nifty tricks, the youthful creativity, and sense of humour, to be replaced by gloomy keyboard backing, slow guitar cling-clang, sad little basslines, and drum machines that go 'kahhh, kahhh' and 'pishhh pishhh pishhhh'.

The truth is this album tries to be what it is not, and what's more it tries so hard that it ends being a little ridiculous. It's like the band trying to prove they're Gothic and depressing, and doing so through tracks like "A Reflection" and "Three" - both instrumentals that just come and go and don't do anything. The former is really a deadly simple piano theme played a few times with some guitar and a one-note keyboard rhythm, but ... well, it's just not effective. And "Three" is based on, sure enough, three piano notes in a chromatic scale, and tries to build up ominousness with an echo effect on the piano, some muted voices and sounds, and a plodding rhythm.

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by Reviewer: Fernando Canto (blogging at Sir Mustapha's Album Reviews [Defunct])

The Cure added a keyboard player to the mix with Seventeen Seconds, making the band a four-piece. And given that Boys Don't Cry was to some extent a rehash of the band's debut, this is the second album proper from Smith and company.

Mike Dempsey had left the band (or got kicked out, depending on who you ask) and mainstay Simon Gallup replaced him, and Matheiu Hartley was the guy added as the fourth member on keyboards.

This really is an epic release, easily my favorite Cure album. Even so, I wouldn't recommend it as a starting point to anyone new to The Cure, as it's a very gloomy record. I can also understand why some people call it kind of samey, with its guitar chords and phrases repeated into oblivion, nevertheless the subtleties are quite amazing.

But still, these are some of Robert Smith's finest songs, as evidenced by "A Forest" remaining part of the band's live set to this day.

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by Reviewer: Austin