Let’s start by conceding that 1989’s Disintegration is the Cure’s best album. Period. Followed by 1982’s Pornography in a close second place.
So that’s all fine and good, but I think greater attention needs to be paid to their 1981 effort Faith. Yes, their third proper album generally gets lumped in with Seventeen Seconds and Pornography as a prime example of their early goth or post-punk phase (if you’re into easy, lazy musicological name-checking) but that’s about all you read. The former gets some notice for seeing the band veer towards something darker and atmospheric while the latter gets the lion’s share of attention for being, arguably, the pinnacle of bleak, depressing rock music.
Faith is a quiet, introspective affair with a pervading sense of emptiness, confusion, and loss. You could say it’s the calm before the storm that is Pornography, their next record. On that album, the confusion turns to impatience and the creeping tension bottoms out to expose a complete sense of hopelessness that’s transmitted via dissonance, pounding and line after line of cryptic prose hurled in your face. Seriously, my lengthy explanation here is not nearly as verbose as some of the lyrics found on Pornography.
But the songs on Faith are generally shorter and sweeter: some wispy, ethereal moments (“All Cats Are Grey”, “The Funeral Party”) and some catchy, uptempo moments (“Primary”, “Other Voices”, “Doubt”) anchored by a few darker turns (“Faith”). The album feels more like an extension of post-punk than anything akin to the campy, self-conscious, theatrical world of goth. Much like Joy Division, the songs are generally spare, skeletal arrangements mustering up just enough energy to fill echoing, emptied out rooms; spiky, meandering guitars anchored by throbbing, purposeful bass lines. Compared to the claustrophobic bombast of Pornography, Faith feels downright frail and nearly invisible.
Faith is the perfect record for a snowy afternoon or chilly autumn evening. That said, I suppose it’s no coincidence that I’m reminded of this album on this day. If you haven’t heard it, please do check it out. It’s one of our favorites.