Halloween has come and gone with only piles of leftover candy to show for itself. It’s now early November, the leaves are for the most part on the ground, and the trees in the yard are becoming nothing more than giant collections of sticks. I respond by eating said leftover candy, grow to hate myself for having consumed it, and stare at the crunchy leaf carcasses scattered about the lawn. The next phase of my seasonal depression has officially begun: the phase where I realize I might not live forever after all. My poor eating choices, coupled with this seasonal reminder from nature, make this fact very apparent. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an album that could help me explore the realization that death is unavoidable? I’m happy to report that I know of just such a record, The Cure’s 1981 release, Faith. Let’s take a look, shall we?
November and December with The Cure’s Faith
I remove my copy of Faith from the record shelf, and I am met with yet another cryptic image. This time, I see what appears to be a black and white photo revealing the vague outline of a church building with a small patch of grass in the foreground. The band logo used during the early 80s appears once again, this time in black. The album’s title is displayed in lowercase letters that seem to hover beneath the logo as if floating in a thick fog. I’m immediately filled with a sense of dread. In my mind’s eye, I find myself adding in a churchyard cemetery. I play the album’s opening track “The Holy Hour” and prepare myself for Robert Smith’s crisis of faith set to music.
The Holy Hour
I’m a sucker for a good bass riff, and this track starts with a bass line that instantly pulls me into the song. The drums kick in along with a synthesized gonging sound that rings out over and over behind each instrumental phrase. When the lyrics begin, they speak of a graveside service. One by one the attendees pay their respects and slip away into the night. Robert is left listening, as if in a dream, to the promises of salvation that were made during the service. As Robert eventually rises to leave, he shares a sentiment that brings the first hint of the faith crisis that will plague him throughout Faith. “I stand and hear my voice cry out. A wordless scream at ancient power, it breaks against stone.” As I listen, my depressed thoughts drift to the dead leaves and brown grass of early November. Thoughts of my lost loved ones arise as well, and I share his inner turmoil. It’s easy to dwell on how everything eventually passes away. Why must it be this way?
My depression, often being of the seasonal variety, ramps up at year’s end. Even if I find joy in sharing a meal with extended family, or being with a large group of friends, there is always a looming discomfort that comes from such gatherings. It’s amazing how I can feel so isolated even while surrounded by those I care about most. Robert captures this sentiment nicely in one line from the album’s third track, “Other Voices”. “But I live with desertion and eight million people. Distant noises. Other voices.”
All Cats are Grey
I’m not going to lie. I’ve always gravitated toward this song, and feel the need to include it for one simple reason: I have a grey cat. It’s my personal opinion that grey cats are the best cats to have around. Do I have a detailed list of reasons to back up that claim? Nope. I just wanted to make a bold statement and move on. For me, the synth intro to “All Cats are Grey” conjures up a mental image of a snow covered mountain side in early winter. Robert, stranded within a cave, sings about the discovery of death. “I never thought that I would find myself in bed amongst the stones.”
The Funeral Party
“The Funeral Party” deals with the loss of a loved one. Lyrically it reflects on the life the person lived and the void their death will create in the lives of those that remain. At year’s end, I often find myself ruminating over those I’ve lost throughout the course of my lifetime. I often saturate myself with memories shared over the holiday season and think of the positive influences I have lost forever. A sinister church organ pounds out the chords that lead us into “The Funeral Party”. The notes hit hard and offer us little comfort in return.
Like its predecessor, Seventeen Seconds, Faith wraps up with a title track. Powerfully written, “Faith” is a song in which anyone can find solace. We will all experience the cliched “dark night of the soul” at some point. It’s part of the human experience. In the final song, Robert Smith describes a conversation with someone he holds dear. Phrases such as “please, say the right words” cut deep. We see the agony of someone reaching out for anyone to make sense of life’s pain. The album’s arguments rest in the conclusion that in order to persevere we must all continue on in faith. There is really nothing more we can do. Smith sings, “I went away alone, with nothing left but faith.”
Next up, we tackle January and February with The Cure’s 1982 release Pornography.