Wednesday, April 22, 2020

With Seventeen Seconds The Cure releases their first masterpiece

The Cure : Play For Today

On April 22, 1980 The Cure released Seventeen Seconds, the band's second album. During the recording of the song Robert Smith played four totally unrelated songs on a cassette he'd brought with him : Van Morrison's "Madame George" from Astral Weeks, Nick Drake's "Fruit Tree" from Five Leaves Left, Aram Khachaturian's ballet piece "Gayaneh Ballet Suite No. 1 Adagio" which could be heard on the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Jimi Hendrix's live cover of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower". He also listened to David Bowie's Low on repeat.

"[With Seventeen Seconds] I was trying to get a combination of all the things I liked about those four things,"Smith would explain, "even though they were so disparate."

Somehow the album sustains the same melancholic mood throughout.

Critics didn't immediately embrace the album. Here's Ian Cranna writing in Smash Hits:

After a brilliant debut of dynamite songs in"Three Imaginary Boys", The Cure now expand into more ambitious territory. Their powerful melodic intensity is still there, along with the distinctive insistent drumming, jangling guitar and pent-up vocals, but now the numbers are longer, slower and more exploratory with obscure lyrics and synthesisers lurking in the dark background. An impressive and maturing talent though not quite such a memorable end product this time. Investigate. (8/10)

For NME Nick Kent wrote

To many Seventeen Seconds may seem a valid progression. I , however, find it depressingly regressive. Even so, I await their next move with great interest.

With time, the album has gained the respect Robert Smith sought. It is one of the band's very best.

Years later Smith would tell Rolling Stone :

"I knew exactly what I wanted to do with Seventeen Seconds. I knew exactly how I wanted it to sound and I didn't want anyone to interfere with that. Anyone who wanted to play more than one piano note could go and do it somewhere else...From this point on , I though every album was going to be the last Cure album, so I always tried to make it something that would be kind of a milestone. I feel Seventeen Seconds is one of few albums that genuinely achieve that."

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