Review Summary: Bring some matches because there is no light at the end of this tunnel.Pornography
was the first album I bought from the prolific band known as The Cure. I found it contrived, boring and lackluster. I was also nineteen years old at the time, listening to an overwhelming amount of underground metal with no regard for songwriting or substance, solely focused on extremity. It wasn't until I heard their magnum opus Disintegration
a few years later that I started to appreciate the band in all of its gloomy grandeur. I eventually wandered back to Pornography
questioning why I disliked it. I have come to the conclusion that the album was not written for the fans, nor the label, but for the members and, if anything, shows profound insight into how the group felt at that particular moment in time. Every song sounds like it's the last song The Cure will ever play, a death knell that never ends. Unlike Seventeen Seconds
, the album is direct with its style and does not apologize for its indulgent behavior. What I find even more strange is that the pop-sensibilities that would present themselves on former releases, something I felt the band would always resort back to when they didn't have enough material to carry the idea they had started, is almost non-existent. They want you to feel miserable, beside yourself with fear and anguish, uncertain of the next day, month, year or, more importantly, certain that death is greater than the lives we lead.
'It doesn't matter if we all die'
are the first words spewing from the mouth of Robert Smith as if he had been free-basing nihilism for fun on album opener 'One Hundred Years'. The wailing guitar that goes on for almost seven minutes, combined with drums that refuse to use any cymbals and minimalist bass really sets up your descent into the madness and insecurity that awaits ten-fold throughout the album. Fan favorite, 'The Hanging Garden', is slightly more energetic than the other songs, the drums playing a continuous passage of toms meeting high hat while the bass drives a solid, melodic progression that is met by shy guitars, only speaking up when necessary. This is the first time you notice Smith's progression as a vocalist. He sounds assured of his performance whilst more depressed than usual. His words hold conviction and you can hear his anguish echoed behind every tortured verse he delivers. 'The Figurehead' is another standout with its funeral procession styled structure slowly smothering you in atmosphere until the repeated lyrics 'I will never be clean again.'
drive the stake, placed by your jugular from the beginning, further into the now festering wound.
The production fits the mood of Pornography
in the sense that is sounds unstable most of the time. There are an abundance of different production styles on the drums, bass, guitar and even vocals that always keep you guessing as to what the next endeavor will sound like, considering anti-climax dominates the writing, and will vary song to song. Usually, an inconsistent sound can hurt an album but, somehow, the album actually benefits from this uncanny method. With one instrument overshadowing the others at any given point, you can't help but pay attention to your surroundings while wallowing in their mud that is quickly turning to quicksand. As I stated before, Robert Smith's vocals are truly something to behold. Whether they are being drowned out by effects or highly prominent in the mix, he is able to transfix you with his words of woe so easily you will be questioning your own sense of self-worth without even realizing it until the record ends.
The Cure laid everything out for their audience to see on Pornography
. The band had reached critical success, delved into the world of drug abuse and no longer felt anything at all aside from the misery they could only relieve through music. As stated in interviews, every word uttered was exactly how they felt. Translated through Robert Smith maybe, but a sentiment the band shared as a collective. The self-loathing nature explored here is not a gimmick or intentional selling point, it is a perfect image of a band that realized itself; despite the realization coming from depression and internal conflict. Pornography
is probably the most personal recording The Cure have to offer and you can hear it on every offering that sums of up this effort dedicated to efforts wasted. Nihilism reigns, tears are as potent as the strongest liquor and death is the only absolute.
Cue the imitators.