Open main menu

Seventeen Seconds

Seventeen Seconds is the second studio album by English rock band the Cure, released on 22 April 1980 by Fiction Records. The album marked the first time frontman Robert Smith co-produced 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.

Seventeen Seconds
Seventeen Seconds.jpg
Studio album by
Released22 April 1980
StudioMorgan Studio One, London
The Cure chronology
Three Imaginary Boys
Seventeen Seconds
Singles from Seventeen Seconds
  1. "A Forest"
    Released: 28 March 1980


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".[1] 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.[1] 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.[2]

Two members of the Magazine Spies, bass guitarist Simon Gallup and keyboardist Matthieu Hartley, were added to the band's lineup.[3] 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).[2]

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.[2] 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 [4] with the album's sonic direction driven by its drum sound.[2]

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.

Musical styleEdit

Retrospectively, Seventeen Seconds has been considered an early example of gothic rock.[5][6] Its "gloomscapes" are considered to be "a sonic touchstone" for the forthcoming movement.[6] 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".[6] The album has also been described as new wave.[7]

Release and reissueEdit

Seventeen Seconds was released on 22 April 1980. It reached No. 20 on the British album charts.[2] 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

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [8]
Blender     [9]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [10]
Entertainment WeeklyB[11]
The Guardian     [12]
Mojo     [13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [14]
Sounds     [15]
Uncut     [16]

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.[17] 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".[18]

Simon Reynolds described the attractive, "translucent-sounding" album as featuring shades of the Durutti Column, Young Marble Giants and Another Green World by Brian Eno.[19]

Seventeen Seconds is in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[20] The authors note: "Like the album's cover art, which is little more than an abstract blur, the bleak, minimalist sound of Seventeen Seconds-era cure is subtly suggestive." Attention is drawn to the "beguiling bleakness, both in its brief instrumentals and the more pop-oriented tracks (such as the sharp, hook-laden 'Play for Today') that hark back to their earlier work."[21]

Track listingEdit

All lyrics are written by Robert Smith; all music is composed by The Cure (Smith, Matthieu Hartley, Simon Gallup and Lol Tolhurst).

Side A
1."A Reflection"2:12
2."Play for Today"3:40
4."In Your House"4:07
Side B
6."The Final Sound"0:52
7."A Forest"5:55
9."At Night"5:54
10."Seventeen Seconds"4:00


  • 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.


The Cure


  • Mike Hedges – production, engineering
  • Chris Parry – production
  • David Kemp – engineering
  • Martyn Webster – engineering assistance

Certifications and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
France (SNEP)[22] Gold 100,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[23] Platinum 15,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b Oldham, James (February 2000), "Bad Medicine", Uncut
  2. ^ a b c d e Buskin, Richard (December 2004). "Classic Tracks: The Cure 'A Forest'". Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  3. ^ Black, Johnny. "Seventeen Seconds [booklet - deluxe edition]", Universal, 2005
  4. ^ a b Abebe, Nitsuh (12 May 2005). "The Cure: Seventeen Seconds / Faith / Pornography". Pitchfork. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  5. ^ Thompson, Dave (2002). The Dark Reign of Gothic Rock: In the Reptile House with The Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus and The Cure. Helter Skelter. p. 70. ISBN 1-900924-48-X.
  6. ^ a b c Apter, Jeff (2006). Never Enough: The Story of The Cure. Omnibus Press. ISBN 1-84449-827-1.
  7. ^ Abebe, Nitsuh (25 August 2006). "The Cure / Robert Smith: The Top / The Head on the Door / Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me / Blue Sunshine". Pitchfork. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  8. ^ True, Chris. "Seventeen Seconds – The Cure". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  9. ^ Wolk, Douglas (20 September 2005). "The Cure: Seventeen Seconds". Blender. Archived from the original on 23 November 2005. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  10. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  11. ^ Sinclair, Tom (11 April 2005). "EW reviews the latest album reissues". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  12. ^ Sweeting, Adam (19 May 2005). "The Cure, Seventeen Seconds". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  13. ^ Perry, Andrew (June 2005). "Death became them". Mojo (139): 116.
  14. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "The Cure". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 205–06. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  15. ^ Sutcliffe, Phil (24 May 1980). "Garden gnomes". Sounds.
  16. ^ Martin, Piers (June 2005). "Power of three". Uncut (97): 124.
  17. ^ Kent, Nick (26 April 1980). "Why Science Can't Find Cure for Vagueness [Seventeen Seconds - review]". NME.
  18. ^ Westwood, Chris (26 April 1980). "Oblique Soundtracks [Seventeen Seconds - review]". Record Mirror.
  19. ^ Reynolds, Simon. Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. London: Faber & Faber, 2005. p.429 ISBN 0571215696
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "Les Certifications depuis 1973: Albums". Retrieved 1 June 2019. (select "The Cure" from drop-down list)
  23. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – The Cure – Seventeen Seconds". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 1 June 2019.

External linksEdit