1981’s Faith put the Cure into the forefront of the Goth music scene in Britain as they were gaining some commercial ground in that country. Yet, some fans were disturbed by the band’s more somber sound as well as the persona the band was creating. In early 1982, the band went to the studio to create their fourth album with a new producer in Phil Thornalley. Yet, the sound the band had created with Faith and its predecessor Seventeen Seconds were taken to new extremes as the band’s vocalist/guitarist Robert Smith was becoming troubled as it reflected on the lyrics to their fourth album Pornography.
Written and performed by the Cure with production by the band and Phil Thornalley, Pornography is an album that culminates all of the band’s previous work into something far more harrowing. With Lol Tolhurst’s drumming becoming more intense in performance and Simon Gallup’s bass providing eerie textures with Smith’s guitar and vocals. It’s a record that is filled with lyrics of torment, nihilism, and dread as it would be the Cure’s most visceral album of their career.
The album opener One Hundred Years arrives with pulsating drum fills from Lol Tolhurst as it is followed by blaring guitars from Robert Smith, swooning synthesizers, and Simon Gallup’s baritone-laden bass. Smith then sings the opening line “It doesn’t matter if we all die” to set the mood for the entire album as he continues to sing lyrics filled with dark imagery and chaos. A Short Term Effect is an up-tempo song led by Tolhurst’s throbbing, pummeling beats and Gallup’s wobbly bass as it plays to Smith’s swirl-chiming guitars as he sings in his wailing, tormented vocals. The song’s lyrics are filled with images of death as it features elements of nihilism over the actions that occur in the lyrics.
The single The Hanging Garden is led by Tolhurst’s militaristic-hammering beats and Gallup’s driving bass line as it includes Smith’s ringing guitar and droning noises. Smith sings in a biting, snarling vocal filled with chilling lyrics that includes ghostly imagery that creeps into the album. Siamese Twins is a slow, down-tempo track led by slow drum beats and melodic guitar chimes that is followed by low bass lines. Smith’s calm vocals has him singing morose lyrics that has him yearning for death. The Figurehead is another downbeat song with a more mid-tempo rhythm that is carried by Gallup’s heavy bass and Tolhurst’s walloping drums. With Smith’s ringing guitar and somber synthesizer background, Smith sings in a despaired persona to reflect the song’s melancholic lyrics as it’s one of the emotionally-intense cuts on the album.
A Strange Day is a harrowing mid-tempo track with pounding drums and wobbly bass lines that is followed by a smooth synthesizer track as Smith sings with his somber vocal. Singing to lyrics of despair filled with harsh imagery of landscapes, the song also has Smith playing a ringing, arpeggio-laden guitar track. Cold is led by Tolhurst’s pulsating yet hollow drum with Gallup’s drone-heavy bass as it is followed by a wailing synthesizer. Smith’s tormented vocal has him singing lyrics that are literally chilling in its description. Closing the album is the title track as it opens with warbles of voices as it leads to hollow, walloping drums and a bass-laden synthesizer. With Smith’s warbling guitar and his wailing vocals finally taking charge after two minutes, Smith sings terrifying lyrics of chaos as it brings closure to a chaotic yet stark album.
The 2005 deluxe edition of the album Fiction and Rhino features the entire album on the first disc that is remastered by Chris Blair under Robert Smith’s supervision. The second disc of the deluxe edition includes various demos and live rarities including a score piece for a movie called Airlock.
The first six tracks are demos that features early studio demos of tracks from the album along with a trio of instrumental rarities. The first rarity is a group demo for Break that is led by Simon Gallup’s low, baritone-heavy bass and Lol Tolhurt’s hollow, throbbing drums that is followed by Robert Smith’s ringing, scratchy guitar. The next two studio demos are for the rarities Demise and Temptation. The former is a simple, mid-tempo track led by Tolhurst’s steady drums and Smith’s melodic guitar chime that is followed by a slow, wobbly bass. The latter is a more upbeat track with driving guitars and bass with pulsating drums.
The studio demos for The Figurehead, The Hanging Garden, and One Hundred Years as The Figurehead sound a bit rougher than its final version while The Hanging Garden has a slower rhythm and alternate lyrics. One Hundred Years is mostly accompanied by a soft drum machine and a rough synthesizer swoon. The thirteen-minute and seven-seconds instrumental Airlock: The Soundtrack is a raucous, eerie track filled with crashing pianos, wailing saxophones, and various noises that appear throughout the entirety of the piece.
The next six tracks are live material from the Pornography tour as it includes a rarity in the song called All Mine. The live section includes performances of Cold, A Strange Day, Pornography, A Short Term Effect, and Siamese Twins as many of these performances are wonderfully mixed to enhance the band’s performance with the instruments being properly heard and Smith’s vocals being very engaging. All Mine is a song that has Smith singing lyrics of desperation as his wailing vocals and ringing guitar take charge as he’s later followed by Gallup’s low bass and a hammering beat from Tolhurst. Closing the second disc is a studio demo of an early version of the non-LP single Let's Go to Bed called Temptation Two which has Smith playing solely to driving bass lines and ringing guitars to a drum machine as he sings fragmented lyrics.
Released on May of 1982, the album initially drew mixed reviews from critics over the band’s sound and their dark lyrics. Even the band’s label Fiction was worried about the album’s release believing that an album this extreme would alienate their fans. Instead, the album became their biggest commercial success to date peaking at number eight in the U.K. album charts proving that the Cure were becoming bigger than ever. When the band started to tour for the album with a new look of big hair and smeared lipstick on their faces that would be their defining look for many years. The tour was a chaotic one that finally prompted Simon Gallup to leave the Cure after a falling out with Robert Smith. Despite the success of the album, the extremities that Smith took for the record and the band left him troubled as he sought to take a break leaving fans to believe that the Cure had broken up.
Pornography is a stark yet powerful masterpiece from the Cure which is truly one of their most definitive albums of their career. While it’s not an album that is very easy to listen to due to the dark nature and bleak lyrics that surrounds the album. It’s an album that has no sunny moments as at times, it’s very depressing and also very angry. Still, it has all of the hallmarks that isn’t just expected in a band like the Cure but it’s a record that is among one of the greatest albums of the Goth music scene and of the early 1980s. In the end, Pornography is a chilling yet confrontational album from the Cure.
The Cure Studio Albums: Three Imaginary Boys - Seventeen Seconds - Faith - The Top - The Head on the Door - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me - Disintegration - Wish - Wild Mood Swings - Bloodflowers - The Cure - 4:13 Dream
Compilations: Staring at the Sea/Standing on a Beach - Mixed Up - Galore - Greatest Hits - Join the Dots
© thevoid99 2011