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A spectral sweep of gray over a distant smudge of a church is the stark image on the cover of Faith
. That pretty much sums up the mood of the album itself. The Cure’s debut as a peppy post-punk band seemed nearly nonexistent on this third album, everything stripped down to make a gentle atmosphere that The Cure would perfect five albums later on Disintegration
. The transition from upbeat jangly pop to minimal synth-driven gloominess was somewhat lopsided with the sophomore Seventeen Seconds
. Though The Cure would get drearier and also return to pop, Faith stands out as a landmark of the Cure finding themselves as a darker band. Is it a coincidence that at the same time they adopted their trademark goth image, and essentially became a suicidal drug-addled band a year after?
Well, an album known mainly for being front man Robert Smith’s cry from his lack of faith and difficulty finding it shouldn’t really be a sign of good times ahead. While it’s more popular successor Pornography
screamed ghoulish feelings and sent a general message of complete misery, Faith
stood in a place of uncertainty. Smith wants faith, but he also wants to tell stories that cloud your sunshine. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. The title track basically sums this feeling up, hinting at wanting to change, but never actually taking action towards, nor condemning the state he’s in. Faith
is the final moment of calmness before restless rage kicks in.
Musically, The Cure pull a curve ball chronologically. Their first album Three Imaginary Boys
(or the nearly identical Boys Don’t Cry
made for the US) was a rush of amateur post-punk tightly bundled in a trio. Seventeen Seconds followed with a fourth member and an expansion sonically. Minus the fourth member here, poor Smith is left to guitar and keyboard duties, while the rhythm section gives off a mellow hollow sound that dominates the core of each song. The metallic bass and wandering drums leave eerily quiet moments in the bare groove.
Instead of gloating in the fact that he has all of the lead instruments for himself to make a megalomaniacal shred fest with synthesized improve, Smith’s work is shy, mingling with the sparse atmosphere. Smith’s early trademark jangly guitar still jangles, but on an introverted level, like R.E.M.
playing at a funeral. Smith’s stumpy baritone guitar doesn’t perk up often, but when it does it brings the pep from their first album on faster songs like Primary
’s midpoint(s) All Cats are Grey
and The Funeral Party
are the highest points of the album. The main problem with Faith
is its lack of form in songs. As a whole, it comes together nicely, but with individual songs with generally sluggish pace aren’t very to listen to; one has to be in a faith
mood to listen (and I don’t mean leather jacket, grizzled face and jukebox
mood). However, All Cats are Grey doesn’t need form. Its few lyrics within a span of five and a half minutes go unnoticed in the ethereal, ambient, humming synths. It feels like a break, like the peaceful A Warm Place
in Nine Inch Nails
relentlessly violent The Downward Spiral
. The Funeral Party
is similar, but triumphantly symphonic, picking up the pace after quiet time with its preceding track. Smith’s voice in both songs show a new sophistication, refining his British singing from the more moaning and boyishness of before.
Ringing with ominous placidity in a wretched state of mind, Faith
isn’t the best place to start with the Cure. Its murky jigsaw puzzle songs that come together to form a murkier overall stick doesn’t stick immediately, slow-burning without any genuine pop hits or over-the-edge mantras to leave a direct impression on a new listener. To an experienced listener, Faith is very toned down, and tightly stripped compared to what has maintained the Cure’s legacy (one of their legacies, at least) as a lavished and orchestral sad band. Though having moments of succinct angst, and beautiful anti-climaxes, nothing else can be considered a highlight at all. Just like its cover, Faith
is a morbidly grey album with slight tilts on the shade scale. But I’m colour blind, it might as well be any colour for all I care.