Seventeen Seconds (Deluxe Edition)

Seventeen Seconds (Deluxe Edition)

After the sprightly punk-pop of their debut — Three Imaginary Boys in the U.K, Boys Don’t Cry in the U.S. — the Cure returned in 1980 with a retooled group and sound. New bassist Simon Gallup and temporary keyboardist Mathieu Hartley recast the group as a smoother, increasingly ambient unit. The emerging Goth movement with its emphasis on sparse, bleak soundscapes and robotic, disembodied rhythms would merge well with Smith’s penchant for mysterious and/or overly dramatic lyrics and the group’s eventual flamboyant fashion sense. But here the emphasis is on an austere minimalism that gives extra heft to every guitar note and each interaction between bass guitar and drum.  Each album “side” began with an instrumental. (“The Final Sound” was meant to be a lengthy piece that was curtailed to 52 seconds by the band’s strict budget and the tape literally running out during recording.) “A Forest” was just upbeat enough to qualify as the album’s single and keep up the group’s public profile, but mostly these gorgeous, icy tunes (“Play for Today,” “In Your House”) stand as quiet songs where nothing specific comes into focus but the overall feeling is complete and satisfying. The expanded edition includes 15 rarities, including the early ‘Cult Hero’ single, several home demos and a slew of live tracks that illustrate the band could be just as eerie, if rougher and tougher, in the live context.

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