From the first few moments of solitude on “A Reflection”, The Cure’s ‘Seventeen Seconds’ sheds much of the image forged on their first disc: here is a band that no longer tries to fit in a post-punk world, choosing instead to immerse itself in introspection as its creative medium. And, with these key piano notes, The Cure have finally found a sound that will inspire generations.
Following this morose beginning, “Play For Today” picks the disc up off the ground and gives it a swift kick in the butt; a boost that will prove necessary in order to survive the downbeat proceedings that will last until the midway point of the album. As the mood starts spiralling downward, we are served with “Secrets”, a bass-driven instrumental not unlike “Another Journey By Train”, but without the mad rush that makes the latter a classic gem.
Although ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is largely voxless, Robert Smith’s voice turns out to be hardly necessary; the mood set by this platter is perfect as is, and probably would have been spoiled by this distraction. Smith’s vocals are always welcome, but this recording indicates that he once knew when to step back and let the music work its magic – a seemingly lost awareness that recent releases might have benefitted from.
In a prophetic move, “A Forest” ends up as the centrepiece of the CD, timewise. Although it was once the second serving of side two (on the original vinyl release), it is so perfectly placed in this format, being the standout track on the album and one of the greatest numbers penned by the band. In fact, hearing “A Forest” in all its splendor is a total treat; where the tentative opening guitar licks are usually edited out in single form, here the song is complete in all its bouncy grandeur.
The title track closes the album on a very solid footing. Although nothing could ever compare with “A Forest”, “Seventeen Seconds” and the remaining numbers step out of its shadow sufficiently enough to be memorable – largely thanks to the ‘false start’ of “M”, which helps to disconnect the listener from those infectious bass lines.
‘Seventen Seconds’, while certainly not The Cure’s greatest album, bridges the gap between ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ and ‘Faith’ extremely well. It is polished and focused enough to feel relatively whole, even if it starts the band’s journey down the path to self-destruction; as Robert Smith himself declares, it feels like the first real album by The Cure.
To have discovered the record and its counterparts at the time of their release would no doubt have been quite an experience: their musical progression over the course of their first four albums (before releasing the chaotic ‘The Top’) might even explain the cult status that the band has been squandering of late.
We give it a 7.5 out of 10.