D//E Select: The Cure: Pornography

From time to time, Destroy//Exist shines a light on an album which has profoundly influenced the music we value the most. D//E Select serves as a commendatory showcase, offering the chance to spotlight those favorites which deserve continual recognition.

The notion that The Cure undergoes a shift between dark and brighter phases is often discussed, though it's disputable given the consistent presence of melancholy and darkness across their entire body of work. Pornography is the pinnacle of this darker aspect, the third album in a dark trilogy marked by Robert Smith's rejection of the gothic label, yet its bleakness, despair, and nihilism reach unprecedented levels in his creative output.

Smith draws inspiration from various sources for Pornography, including The Psychedelic Furs' debut album, the influential sound of Siouxsie and the Banshees, a massive influence on him - the group which led him towards creating Pornography, as well as albums which range from super bleak to nostalgic to wild, such as Desertshore by Nico, Music for Films by Brian Eno, Axis: Bold as Love and Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix, Twenty Golden Greats by Frank Sinatra and the Early Piano Works by Erik Satie.

With its controversial title, profoundly dark sound, drug-fueled impression and an overall mess of brilliance against misery, Pornography was released on May 4th,1982, through Fiction Records, and post punk as a genre was never the same again.

Initially met with mixed reviews, Pornography took several years to be fully respected, and was considered a decline of the creative and mental states of The Cure at the time of its release. The album captures a sense of macabre nervousness in utter perfection, and maintains its inherent gloom for its entirety. Its instrumental foundation, characterized by rhythmic ceremonial drumming by Lol Tolhurst who from then on transitioned into a keyboardist role, effected bass, and brilliant, restrained guitars and synths, serves as a backdrop for Smith's dismal and disheartening vocals, creating a perfect equilibrium of anxiety and desolation.

Exceeding the starkness of its predecessors, Faith and Seventeen Seconds, both masterpieces in their own right, Pornography sees Smith grappling with life's futility and the inevitability of death with an existentially charged punk rock spirit.

Following Pornography, The Cure diverged significantly from its sound, solidifying their place as one of the best of their kind. Pornography was a pivotal step in getting there; a genuine one.

Robert Smith has the ultimate of that era: "I had two choices at the time, which were either completely giving in or making a record of it and getting it out of me. [...] I had every intention of signing off. I wanted to make the ultimate 'fuck off' record, and then sign off. [...] I was in a really depressed frame of mind between 1981 and 1982."

Promotional poster by Fiction Records from 1982.

Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form