Seventeen Seconds is the second studio album by British alternative rock band the Cure, recorded at Morgan Studio and released on 22 April 1980 by Fiction Records. For Seventeen Seconds, Robert Smith co-produced for the first time with Mike Hedges. After the departure of original bassist Michael Dempsey, Simon Gallup became an official member along with keyboardist Matthieu Hartley. The single "A Forest" was the band's first entry in the Top 40 of the UK Singles Chart.
|Studio album by|
|Released||22 April 1980|
|Studio||Morgan Studio One, London, England|
|The Cure chronology|
|Singles from Seventeen Seconds|
At the end of their 1979 UK tour, Robert Smith spoke less and less with bassist Michael Dempsey; the Cure were, at the time, the support band for Siouxsie and the Banshees. An early version of "M" was performed at a few concerts, but Dempsey did not like the new musical direction that Smith wanted to take. Smith commented: "I think the final straw came when I played Michael the demos for the next album and he hated them. He wanted us to be XTC part 2 and - if anything - I wanted us to be the Banshees part 2. So he left". The records that Smith was constantly listening to during the composition of the album were Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake, Isle of Wight by Jimi Hendrix, Astral Weeks by Van Morrison and Low by David Bowie. Smith wrote the lyrics and music for most of the record at his parents' home, on a Hammond organ with a built-in tape recorder. Interviewed in 2004, producer Mike Hedges did not recall any demo tracks, with the band generally playing the track in the studio before laying down a backing track to which overdubs were added.
Two members of the Magazine Spies, bass guitarist Simon Gallup and keyboardist Matthieu Hartley, were added to the band's lineup. Gallup replaced Dempsey, which relieved Smith as he felt Dempsey's basslines were too ornate. Hartley's synth work added a new dimension to the band's newly ethereal sound, although Smith and he would later clash over complexity (Hartley enjoyed complex chords; Smith wanted single notes).
Owing to financial restraints, the album was recorded and mixed in seven days on a budget of between £2,000 and £3,000, which resulted in the band working 16 or 17 hours a day to complete the album. Smith stated that as a result, the track "The Final Sound" was actually planned to be much longer, but was cut down to 53 seconds because the tape ran out while recording, and they couldn't record it again. The record, mostly a collection of downbeat tracks, features ambient echoing vocals  with the album's sonic direction driven by its drum sound.
In the media, there was controversy concerning the band's "anti-image", established by the cover of Three Imaginary Boys, which this album contributed to by blurring the photos of the band's members and the cover art. This is the first Cure album for which Smith was able to choose the cover art.
Retrospectively, Seventeen Seconds has been considered an early example of gothic rock. Its "gloomscapes" are considered to be "a sonic touchstone" for the forthcoming movement. The track "The Final Sound", is "so positively gothic you could almost be fooled into believing that it was lifted from the soundtrack of some Hammer horror gorefest". The album has also been described as new wave.
Release and reissueEdit
Seventeen Seconds was released on 22 April 1980. It reached No. 20 on the British album charts. The record was repackaged in the US in 1981 (on the A&M label) with Faith as Happily Ever After, available as a double LP. In 2005, the album was remastered as part of Universal's Deluxe Edition series, featuring bonus live tracks and demos as well as studio material by Cult Hero, a group that featured Smith's postman Frank Bell as lead singer, and which performed 1970s-style rock along the lines of Easy Cure.
Reception and legacyEdit
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
The album's songs are described by critics as featuring vague, often unsettling lyrics and "dark", spare minimalistic melodies. Some reviewers, like Nick Kent of NME, felt that Seventeen Seconds represented a far more mature Cure, who had come very far musically in less than one year. The album was lauded by some critics, and panned as a "collection of soundtracks" by others. Chris Westwood of Record Mirror described the album as "sad Cure, sitting in cold rooms, watching clocks".
|2.||"Play for Today"||3:40|
|4.||"In Your House"||4:07|
|6.||"The Final Sound"||0:52|
|2005 CD Deluxe Edition bonus disc|
|1.||"I'm a Cult Hero" (vinyl single by Cult Hero, December 1979)||2:59|
|2.||"I Dig You" (vinyl single by Cult Hero, December 1979)||3:40|
|3.||"Another Journey by Train (AKA 44F)" (group home instrumental demo, January 1980)||3:12|
|4.||"Secrets" (group home instrumental demo, January 1980)||3:40|
|5.||"Seventeen Seconds" (live in Amsterdam, January 1980)||3:59|
|6.||"In Your House" (live in Amsterdam, January 1980)||3:32|
|7.||"Three" (alternate studio mix, February 1980)||2:45|
|8.||"I Dig You" (Cult Hero live at the Marquee Club, London, March 1980)||3:36|
|9.||"I'm a Cult Hero" (Cult Hero live at the Marquee Club, London, March 1980)||3:21|
|10.||"M" (live in Arnhem, May 1980)||2:56|
|11.||"The Final Sound" (live in France, June 1980)||0:26|
|12.||"A Reflection" (live in France, June 1980)||1:39|
|13.||"Play for Today" (live in France, June 1980)||3:46|
|14.||"At Night" (live in France, June 1980)||5:37|
|15.||"A Forest" (live in France, June 1980)||6:28|
- The US cassette version has "A Forest" on Side A and "Play for Today" on Side B. Also, the artwork is different, with some tree branches at left and a reddish blob at the bottom.
- Robert Smith – guitars, vocals, production
- Matthieu Hartley – keyboards
- Lol Tolhurst – drums
- Simon Gallup – bass guitar
- Mike Hedges – production, engineering
- Chris Parry – production
- David Kemp – engineering
- Martyn Webster – engineering assistance
Certifications and salesEdit
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Platinum||15,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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- Sutcliffe, Phil (24 May 1980). "Garden gnomes". Sounds.
- Martin, Piers (June 2005). "Power of three". Uncut (97): 124.
- Kent, Nick (26 April 1980). "Why Science Can't Find Cure for Vagueness [Seventeen Seconds - review]". NME.
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- Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
- "Les Certifications depuis 1973: Albums". Infodisc.fr. Retrieved 1 June 2019. (select "The Cure" from drop-down list)
- "New Zealand album certifications – The Cure – Seventeen Seconds". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 1 June 2019.