Released in 1980 Seventeen Seconds is my favourite album by The Cure. Tecnicallay only the bands 2nd studio album – it sits closely both in timescale and style to Faith (the bands 3rd album).
Seventeen Seconds showcases minimal sounds in a near widescreen format. Stirring. Slow. Brewing melodies.
A Reflection sets the tone. Muted piano. Soft instrumentation. An instrumental that sounds a world away from the bands debut album Three Imaginary Boys.
Remaining muted and soft Play For Today manages to up the pace somehow. Soft crashes kick-start the track. Jangles of guitar but somehow electronic with it. An outstanding vocal from Robert Smith managing to sound disinterested and very interesting all at the same time.
Secrets is very downbeat. Quietly it builds with minimal bass and almost adventurous guitar picks. It fits the theme of Seveteen Seconds well – just when you get into it – it blurs away.
In Your House offers more slow controlled electronics bombs. Moody – the kind of track teenagers all around England would have been nodding along to on their own as they listened to the album in the early 80’s.
Three sweeps away. Still outstandingly quiet initially quickly it brews and suddenly sounds more brash. Electronic sweeps married perfectly with indie instrumentation it swings like a pendulum before checking itself and almost apologetically wobbling away.
The Final Sound is a brief intro (to the next track) – but adds to the finest moment on the album and arguably the bands entire output…
A Forest lulls in with evocative moody soundscapes. Again initially very quiet it rises confidently into a sweeping / pushing sound. If you leave this track alone for 5 years then play it you are quickly reminded that it is a total classic – you will remember vividly every single bar. Echoing vocals. Dreamlike soundscapes. Controlled, electronic, yet organic. The bass at the end is “to die for” good. It really is hard do it justice with written words. (Give it a spin).
M is another gem. Robert Smith on fine distant vocal form. Moodly yet not spoiled – it brews away in its own corner almost asking to be left alone.
At Night nails the vibe of Seventeen Seconds. Very quiet but almost menacing – a winning combination. Distant bass that despite being almost inaudible pushes its way to the front. Jangles of guitar that are not punk, post punk, indie or rock – a unique sound.
Seventeen Seconds sounds like a track pulled from the debut album played at 16rpm. The Cure move on quickly to sound slower and somehow it works.
One could argue the whole album is a showcase for A Forset. The whole album does seem structured around that track. It’s the Lionel Messi of a great ensemble of songs – but the sum of the parts is greater than the star of the show…