This is heralded as one of The Cure’s darkest albums and if you listen to it carefully you’ll find out why. 1981’s Faith is filled with somber tunes, dirty bass lines, and plenty of songs involving death. Yet, it still manages to be a great album. This is the Cure’s third album and by this time they honed in on the direction they wanted their music to go (at that time anyway). The dark and depressing themes were introduced in 1980’s Seventeen Seconds, but they are more pronounced on this album. If you listen to this album on the right day it’ll make you make curl up in a corner and cry.
The somber mood is set by the first track “The Holy Hour.” It starts with a low, dirty bass line with toll bells chiming in the background. After about a minute, the guitar comes in not adding much hope of a happy ending for this song. Even the keyboard has an eerie tone and dark lyrics like “Into the night, the cold and empty bodies/kiss the ground before they pray/kiss the ground and slip away” ensure that there will be no happy ending here. All of this really sets the tone for the entire album and it’s actually a great opening track. The lack of hope becomes more and more apparent as the album continues.
The next track “Primary” is probably the most upbeat on the album. It has an awesome racing bass line and a jumping rhythm making it something you can move to, which seems out of place for the tone of the record. And even though the song deals with the disadvantages of getting older, it’s still not as gloomy as the other tracks. It’s like the band is giving you a glimmer of hope, before they kill it with the next track “Other Voices.” This is my favorite song from the album because it has this cool, heavy bass line in the beginning. That mixed with various background noises, including Robert Smith howling like he’s being tortured give the song this jungle vibe, as if it’s placing you in the middle of wildlife. The song is still pretty creepy with talks of hearing voices, but there are some great images, such as “you brush past my skin, soft as fur” or “Pulsing in my swinging arms.” It’s a great song that is highly underrated for the band.
The album continues on this downward spiral of depression from that point on. “All Cats Are Grey” has solemn keys playing while Smith softly sings. It even ends with piano playing the sounds like it’s casting your doom. “The Funeral Party” is nothing but morbid as it talks about two figures lying in the ground and how they’re cold and empty. The music itself sounds like something you would hear at a funeral. You can even picture the ceremony in your head while listening to it. It’s a really depressing track. The darkest song on the album is the closing track “Faith.” It has a striking drumbeat playing against really soft music that doesn’t change much, but what makes this song are the lyrics. There are some that are down right disturbing. One such line is “Rape me like a child/christened in blood/painted like an unknown saint.” The thing that’s so great about the song is the ending. It ends with Smith repeating the line “Nothing left but faith” over and over again. He says it so much that it loses all meaning, which seems to be the point of the song. It’s a dark song about someone who has lost faith even though they are trying hard to believe.
It’s easy to call the album depressing based entirely on how the music sounds, but in order to understand just how morbid this album can get you have to pay attention to the lyrics. Without the lyrics, it would be easy to pass this album off as overtly moody and not very good otherwise, especially when Robert sings so quietly in some tracks. But a lot of the greatness is found in the lyrics. Take these lines from the track “The Drowning Man:”
She stares alone across the water
the loneliness grows and slowly fills
her frozen body sliding downwards
one by one her senses die
the memories fade and leaves
There is such great imagery and word play in these songs, they are almost like Gothic poems, rather than songs. And it’s in such great detail that you can picture everything that’s going on, even if you don’t want to. It’s one of the great talents of Robert Smith that would continue in The Cure’s music.
One song that really stands out is “Doubt.” First, it transitions smoothly from the sullen and slow track “The Funeral Party.” As if to wake up listeners, “Doubt” bursts into vibrant guitars as soon as the track starts. Even though the mood of the song is generally uptempo, the dark and violent imagery is once again found in the lyrics.
Fury drives my vicious blows
I see you fall but still I strike you
again and again your body falls
The movement is sharp and clear
and pure and gone.
This is probably the most violent song in The Cure’s catalog, but it’s easy to miss the lyrics not only by the jarring music, but sometimes it’s hard to understand what Robert is saying due to his accent. This album does a great job of painting what the band was feeling at the time of recording. You can feel a lot of the sadness and lack of hope in these songs.
This album gets 8.5/10. Sure, it may be a depressing album, but it’s one of the best. Oddly, it’s not one of those albums where you have to be sad in order to listen to it. Even if you feel fine you can be up for the album, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll feel the same once it’s over. If anything the lyrics are what make these songs great. This is also an album that shows not only can Robert write catchy songs like “Just Like Heaven,” but he can write beautiful, haunting poetic songs about love, loss, and death. This is definitely one of the greatest Cure albums ever.