30 years ago, May 1982 – the Cure “Pornography” LP

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.

Pornography, by the Cure is that LP, it is a stunner, and it was released thirty years ago this month in May 1982.

Drop me on a desert island with this LP, First and Last and Always, Killing Joke’s debut, In the Flat Field and Henry’s Dream, and I could see out thirty more years.

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.

Click here for the Cure live on the Oxford Road Show, April 1983 – The Figurehead and One Hundred Years

Click here to see other Cure articles.

One Hundred Years – live Glasgow 1984

Full LP!

4 thoughts on “30 years ago, May 1982 – the Cure “Pornography” LP

      1. Sorry for the delayed response. I use the computers in the library (I don’t have one in the house cos I know I’d get sucked in and end up never leaving the house. Do you ever get that problem?) and we only get an hour a day (free). I got timed out as I was replying. But that’s all by the by. In answer to your question, one that most people I know would find impossible to answer and dread being asked for fear of creating a hostage to fortune…well, there isn’t one, is there? But among those first ten off the top of my head for contention (and these would probably be totally different if you asked me next week!) would be:

        • The Beatles: White Album
        • The Stooges: Funhouse
        • The Who: Tommy
        • Love: Forever Changes
        • Television: Marquee Moon
        • Neil Young: Tonight’s The Night
        • Roky Erickson & The Explosives: Casting The Runes*
        • The Wipers: Over The Edge
        • Sonic Youth: Evol
        • Nirvana: In Utero
        • Godspeed You! Black Emperor: F#A#Infinity symbol (not on this keyboard!)

        Oops, that’s eleven, but that’s me – I’m all heart! As you can see I’m not your average Goth stereotype. Not any kind of Goth at all, in fact. I only stumbled on your site looking for reviews of Killing Joke in Manchester. (I’m more punk, you see, as I thought the Joke always were, and I was surprised to find out that KJ were actually a Goth band, but that’s Love Like Blood for you. I always hated that track!) Now I’m getting my inbox stuffed with 9 new posts in one 16-hour period (is that a record for you?), of which the Pornography post was one. Enough, already. Quality/importance control, please! (1919, etc) Less is more!
        Apart from that, keep up the good work! Cheers, Tim

        *C’mon Goths, its got vampires and zombies and everything!

      2. Sorry for the delayed response. I use the computers in the library (I don’t have one in the house cos I know I’d get sucked in and end up never leaving the house. Do you ever get that problem?)

        You know what, the day job involves computers heavily as well, so sometimes it seems not. But I do get out occasionally.

        and we only get an hour a day (free). I got timed out as I was replying. But that’s all by the by. In answer to your question, one that most people I know would find impossible to answer and dread being asked for fear of creating a hostage to fortune…well, there isn’t one, is there?

        Good for you for going for it – I admire any person prepared to stick their head above the parapet and go public with their 10 favourite LPs!

        But among those first ten off the top of my head for contention (and these would probably be totally different if you asked me next week!) would be:

        – The Beatles: White Album
        – The Stooges: Funhouse
        – The Who: Tommy
        – Love: Forever Changes
        – Television: Marquee Moon
        – Neil Young: Tonight’s The Night
        – Roky Erickson & The Explosives: Casting The Runes*
        – The Wipers: Over The Edge
        – Sonic Youth: Evol
        – Nirvana: In Utero
        – Godspeed You! Black Emperor: F#A#Infinity symbol (not on this keyboard!)

        And that I suppose is why music is so amazing. I would only have one of those artists in my top 10 – Neil Young, either Tonight or Rust Never Sleeps (man that dirty guitar sound!). The Stooges and Nirvana I love, but they wouldn’t get in the top 10.

        Oops, that’s eleven, but that’s me – I’m all heart! As you can see I’m not your average Goth stereotype. Not any kind of Goth at all, in fact. I only stumbled on your site looking for reviews of Killing Joke in Manchester. (I’m more punk, you see, as I thought the Joke always were, and I was surprised to find out that KJ were actually a Goth band, but that’s Love Like Blood for you. I always hated that track!)

        Agreed. Love Like Blood is not great, but Night Time did have some hightlights. In fact, after 1985, only Extremities really stands up as an LP (for me). I think the new stuff is the best for a very, very long time.

        And no, Killing Joke are not a goth band. Post-punk I would say.

        Now I’m getting my inbox stuffed with 9 new posts in one 16-hour period (is that a record for you?)

        Absolutely. I do not have much time spare at the moment so when an evening came free I banged out seven posts, and two more quick ones the following morning. It took all evening!

        …of which the Pornography post was one. Enough, already. Quality/importance control, please! (1919, etc) Less is more!

        The 1919 post is part of the “30 years” stream/project – reviewing records, sessions, etc. that happened (you guessed it) 30 years ago, call it completist. I also have a bit of a soft spot for this lot – and so should you – they sound exactly like Killing Joke with a bit of Psychedelic Furs vocals thrown in.

        Apart from that, keep up the good work! Cheers, Tim

        Cheers Tim, if you fancy getting involved, let me know!

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