Review Summary: Believe in The Cure…
By 1981, The Cure had reached the mid-point in their gothic phase, with that year’s effort - ‘Faith’ - being the filling, sandwiched between two similarly bleak, angst-filled outings. ‘Faith’ is, as you might expect, just as grim and gothic as its surrounding albums - as grey as the artwork adorning the album cover. It does, however, mark another step-up in quality from last year's effort, featuring a more diverse set of tracks and some of Smith’s most sharply considered lyrics to date.
Although the cover art is a distorted image of a priory suffocated by thick, grey fog, the album’s faith connotations are not as related to religion as they may seem upon the surface, instead representing a struggling battle against faith in humankind - desperately trying to believe in life itself, as opposed to the idea of an omnipotent being that lies beyond. Upon closer inspection, it becomes more apparent that the album is not an embracement of faith, but rather a struggle to possess said quality in the midst of depression - perhaps even going as far as to denounce the idea, with lines like “commit the sin” suggesting a more faithless slant on the world, than one imbued with belief.
The tone of the album is undeniably dark and serious, with thick, stringent bass chords, spidery riffs and airy percussion blending to create a sombre, grave-yard like atmosphere evident right from the crawling opener ‘The Holy Hour’, with its subtle backing of ringing, desolate bells. In fact, the whole thing sounds like a funeral proceeding with words like “death” cropping up, especially present in the crypt-like ‘All Cats Are Grey’. Backed by a beautiful breeze of chilly synth and gentle percussion, Smith gives some of his finest vocals yet, singing gloomy lines like “In the caves / The textures coat my skin / In the death cell / A single note / Rings on and on and on”. Its sepulchral tones are certainly clear.
The theme of death and afterlife continues with the sublime ‘The Funeral Party’. For an album as dark as ‘Faith’, the gorgeous synths driving the song along at a gentle flutter are a much welcomed surprise. They seep into Smith’s ghostly, reverberated vocals, telling an almost fantastical tale of two “pale” ghostly figures, dancing “noiselessly across the floor” at “the funeral party”, making for one of the album’s many highpoints.
It’s not just ‘The Funeral Party’ that changes the pace, as ‘Faith’ has far more ups and downs than the constant, steady stream of misery that was ‘Seventeen Seconds’. It’s still despairing and gloomy, but said emotions are expressed in a greater range of ways than they were a year previous, with blisteringly frantic moments like the furious ‘Doubt’, and the propulsive lead single ‘Primary’ adding more variety to proceedings than last years outing.
Truth be told, there isn’t a single weak track on the album, but it’s hard to deny the grandeur of the title track. ‘Faith’ is where all the angst, doubt, confusion and anger of the previous seven tracks culminates, to quietly epic proportions. Musically, the title track isn’t much different to any of the other slow-paced, plodding moments witnessed earlier, with its minimalist guitar and percussion; but where the song really shines is in Smith’s lyrics - a reluctant acceptance of faith, brought on by the unrelenting bleakness of whatever situation the protagonist finds himself in, concluding that all he has left is hope and faith ("I went away alone / With nothing left / But faith") - it’s one hell of poignant way to close an album. And what an excellent album it is, at that. It may be a slow-burner, but with it’s consistent and varied (for a gothic-era Cure album, anyway) quality and a string of essentials in ‘All Cats Are Grey’, ‘The Funeral Party’, ‘Primary’, ‘Doubt’ and, of course the title track; 'Faith' is simply one of the strongest Cure albums in the band’s 30 year catalogue.