Daddy, what's the "Eighties"?
Glad you asked, son. You see, the Eighties were a magical time in every forty-something year-old's life. Fashions were going through radical changes. The Compact Disc was making a healthy market for itself. Previously un-warm legs were in for quite a surprise. All summer long, your mother and I would listen to the music of Depeche Mode
and The Cure
So, what I'm getting is, the music was lame and you and mom were lamer. HAHA.
Well, to be fair, I would expect as much from a young man such as yourself. Your conception of Eighties culture relies on the shoddy past that MTV confronts you with and labels true. But remember that band I just previously mentioned, The Cure
? They dawned in the eighties with their post-punk sound that was initially recognizable formerly in such bands as Joy Division
and Echo and the Bunnymen
. But The Cure
took their sound further than most bands would dare over the span of their still continuing career.
Take, for example, their 1980 album Seventeen Seconds
. After the success of their first two albums (though they were essentially the same album released in different countries), Boys Don't Cry
and Three Imaginary Boys
, the band had a good thing going for them which continued onto Seventeen Seconds
. Perhaps one way to sum up the album is to compare it to it's album art. The album art is cold and metallic, but with a sense of mystery as to what it could actually be. The Cure
transmit those kinds of feelings into their sound, with it's icy and schizophrenic production inching the gloomy songcraft toward depression perfection. Often, when the legendary front man Robert Smith sings in his somewhat boyish squeak over the shivering guitar parts and almost too energetic bass, it reaches a stark and wavering peak of gloom and doom, though often subtled by the music's sheer simplicity and moving nature. The problem is, this album doesn't include that much vocal work to begin with, leaving the music to do some of the talking. Often times, it gets way too long to get anywhere and the formulaic way of the music can get repetitive after only a little while.
Now, at the time being The Cure
were not the most diverse band out there. As mentioned before, the music was somewhat formulaic and reminiscent of seventies post-punk and art rock bands. But that's not to say that the song craft that the band uses is bad. In fact, it's a nice sound that they have going and the band knows how to deliver it at just the right punch and attack. Yes it's vague, doomsy and suffocatingly dark, but it's also given an almost danceable twist by its very rhythmical, downbeat and catchy undercoating. Clearly, on such tracks as A Forest
, it's dominant mood is captured by the actual music, very dark and tense, but obscured by the mood is the pure and basic catchiness and fun of a standard pop track from the era. M
and Seventeen Seconds
are breathtaking and simple, surrounded by a dark aura and simultaneously coated with an almost upbeat feel. It’s kind of hard to put your finger on it, but you know when Robert Smith sings lyrics like “the reasons are clear, the faces are drawn, ready for the next attack” and “time slips away, and the light begins to fade, everything is quiet now”, you can tell he’s being sincere about them. His milky voice sketched over the edgy, aching and torturously gloomy music is a thing of beauty when the listener truly decides what they want the album to be; a dance album with a dark twice, or a dark album with a dance twist.
Unfortunately, things don’t go over easy for this album. It starts off with the somewhat pointless instrumental song A Reflection
which though while enjoyable doesn’t set the album up as well as one would hope for an opening song. Three
and At Night
both take an impossibly long time to get started, and even when things do start to warm up the listener begins to realize that the destination the band is trying reach isn’t exactly exciting at all, and both songs take the bullet as the least impressive spots on the album. But it’s the style that A Forest
, In Your House
and Play For Today
embodies that is the most effective. Fast, energetic, true to the band’s oath to darkness and ultimately extremely enjoyable, despite the fact that it could be meant for the exact opposite kind of listening. Yes, the band had their influences but shine brightly because of their ability to sound loyal to the bands but not sounding as if they copied them note for note. Hell, one might even accuse these songs as being "fun".
So, Billy, Seventeen Seconds
is a small portion of what was right with the Eighties and is a small little piece of celluloid that MTV failed to tell you about. Short, smart and artistic, this album is a great way to get to know the Cure
without having to buy both Three Imaginary Boys
and Boys Don't Cry
and not having to reach into their most threatening periods of despair. The music is dark, the lyrics quirky, sarcastic and maybe even playful, and the production chillingly tense, this album is a Cure album alright, and got the band in the right direction for the future. All in all, if you're interested in The Cure
then this is a good album to pick up for both historical purposes and enjoyment purposes. It's also probably the least gloomy the band is capable of being, so that's worth extra points. But an enjoyable release nevertheless, and worthy of your money if you're interested.
Wow, the Eighties sure were great!
*the front door slams and in come the In-Laws*
Hi, dearies, we're here to stay for the weekend! Will your room be available?
Uh oh, here we go again!