How do you start describing an album which has been in your top three albums of all time pretty much ever since you first heard it, almost 30 years ago? An album which, through a process of aural osmosis has penetrated your mind and inhabited every nook and cranny. An album you know so well that, even if you haven’t listened to it for 12 months, as soon as you put it on every lyric and musical nuance is recalled instantly.
In a single, generally over-used word, Pornography is dark, and dark in many ways. The songs are dark – musically they are heavy, slow, repetitive, minor key – the drums and bass dominate and the guitar reaches out occasionally for the dark to hook you in with a delicate, almost nursery-rhyme like riff.
Lyrically they are dense and abstract (as are many of Smith’s lyrics), the album opens with “it doesn’t matter if we all die…”, then starts to get negative.
The drums are dark – there is little high-hat work – the toms are pounding mercilessly instead. The mood in the studio was dark – allegedly drugs and booze were in the mix as well. And production-wise it was dark. It was mixed by Phil Thornally on an API desk – known for their dark sound and the sound is dense and even muddy sometimes – but in a controlled way.
Even visually it is dark – everything is black and red, the sleeve is dark and murky, the video for the only single “Hanging Garden” was filmed at night, in dark clothing with masks smeared in red. Even the press shots are black and red. It’s a long way from “Friday I’m in Love”.
But inside all of the darkness is something very beautiful, something exquisite. These songs, and these sounds, just like the Sisters and Bauhaus, were defining goth – laying the sonic foundations for an entire genre.
I’ve had the album on while I’ve been writing this, and it has probably been six months since I have listened to it end to end. It is perfect. This is possibly, and very probably, the best album ever made. Eight tracks of sheer excellence which crowned perfectly the finest trio of Cure albums ever made – Seventeen Seconds, Faith and Pornography – a slow descent into… well something.
“I chose an eternity of this”… willingly.
One Hundred Years – live Glasgow 1984