This is record number three for the Cure, if one discounts the rehash/cobbled together thing that is Boys Don’t Cry. Yes, let’s discount it, if only for simplicity’s sake.
The two albums that came before this were arguably post-punk, with the quieter Seventeen Seconds edging onto some of the gloom-doom road this band was heading down. Three Imaginary Boys was full of sharp staccato bursts of guitar, walking bass lines and throbbing percussion. Seventeen Seconds slowed affairs down a bit and upped the goth and atmosphere quotient, especially on otherworldly classics like A Forest. Well, they’ve reached their gloom-doom destination on Faith, and what a marvellous destination it is.
Each of the eight tracks on this record are testaments to sparse and tight thinking – guitar, bass and drums with subdued keyboards, each instrument clearly defined, although the Cure does manage to pull off the sense of hints and allusions throughout. There are nuances and touched-on flavours everywhere. Even on rockier tracks like Primary and Doubt, there are still hidden corners and fugitive lustres. Simon Gallup’s bass is front and centre on a few tracks too, like opener The Holy Hour and the hypnotic Other Voices.
The highlights here are the dreamy All Cats Are Grey and the wonderful desolation of The Drowning Man. The latter song is an ode to the Gormenghast character of Fuchsia Groan, who is one of literature’s more tragic belles. The song is a hypnotic and droning dirge and comes close to my definition of the ultimate Gothic track.
Yet, this record is unlikely to appeal to any new listener not keyed into the Cure’s early stuff. Yes, it is downbeat and there’s certainly no fun or joy to be found here. Repeated listens are needed unless you’re really surfing the same waves this music is. Critics at the time dismissed this record (and its even gloomier successor Pornography) as a bunch of self-indulgent moping.
And you know, it probably is a bunch of self-indulgent moping, but to me, that just makes this record even more compelling.