Seventeen Seconds is the second studio album by English alternative rock band The Cure, recorded at Morgan Studio and released on 22 April 1980 by Fiction RecordsSeventeen Seconds established the group's gothic rock sound that would continue until 1982's Pornography.

It is the only Cure album to feature keyboardist Matthieu Hartley.


 [hide*1 Background


Inspiration was very high for the album, as Robert Smith wrote the lyrics and music for most of the record on just two occasions. Most of the music was composed by Smith in his parents' home, on a Hammond organ with a built-in tape recorder. Interviewed in 2004, producer Mike Hedges does not recall any demo tracks, with the band generally playing the track in the studio before laying down a backing track to which overdubs were added.[1]

Two members of The Magazine Spies, bass guitarist Simon Gallup and keyboardist Matthieu Hartley were added to the band's lineup.[2] Gallup replaced Michael Dempsey, which relieved Smith as he felt Dempsey's basslines were too ornate and that they weren't getting on socially. Hartley's synth work added a new dimension to the band's newly ethereal sound, although Smith and he clashed over complexity (Hartley enjoyed complex chords; Smith wanted single notes).[1] Hartley left the group after Seventeen Seconds.[1]

Due to budgetary restraints, the record was recorded and mixed in seven days on a budget of between £2000 and £3000, which resulted in the band working sixteen or seventeen hours a day to complete the album.[1] Smith stated that as a result, the track "The Final Sound" was actually planned to be much longer, but was cut down to 53 seconds because the tape ran out while recording, and they couldn't record it again.

The record, mostly a collection of downbeat tracks, features ambient echoing vocals and minimally-treated instruments,[3] with the album's sonic direction driven by its drum sound.[1]


Seventeen Seconds reached number 20 on the British album charts.[1]

Critical reception[edit]Edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic [4]
The Guardian [5]
Pitchfork 7.5/10[3]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide [6]
Smash Hits 8/10[7]
Stylus Magazine B (Deluxe Edition)[8]

The album's songs are described by critics as bearing vague, often unsettling lyrics and "dark", spare minimalistic melodies. Some reviewers, like Nick Kent of NME , felt that Seventeen Seconds represented a far more mature Cure, who had come very far musically in less than one year.[9] The album was lauded by some critics, and panned as a "collection of soundtracks" by others. Chris Westwood of Record Mirror described the album as "sad Cure, sitting in cold rooms, watching clocks".[10]

Despite the mixed reception, the album was relatively successful when released, reaching number 20 in the UK.[1] There was controversy concerning the band's "anti-image", established by the cover of Three Imaginary Boys, which this album contributed to by blurring the photos of the band's members and the cover art. This is the first Cure album Smith was able to choose the art for.


This record was repackaged in the US in 1981 (on the A&M label) with Faith as Happily Ever After – available as a double album or a single CD. Neither album was available individually in the US until 1986.[11]

Seventeen Seconds was reissued in the UK on 25 April 2005 as part of Universal's Deluxe Edition series. The new edition featured a remastered version of the album on the first disc, while the second contained demo and live tracks. On the rarities disc, four of these rarities are recorded by the one-off Cult Hero, a group that featured Smith's postman Frank Bell as lead singer and which performed '70s style rock along the lines of Easy Cure.

There also exists a one-disc reissue, released on 5 September 2005 in the UK, containing only the original album. It is also released in the standard jewel case, and not a digipak. In some countries, the "Deluxe Edition" has become a collector's item due to the phasing out of production, being replaced by the more economic one-CD version.

In 2005, The Cure re-recorded the tracks "Seventeen Seconds", along with other title tracks "Three Imaginary Boys", "Faith" and "Pornography", for the album 4play.

Musical style[edit]Edit

Seventeen Seconds has been considered an early gothic rock record by some critics.[12][13] Jeff Apter, author of the Cure biography Never Enough: The Story of The Cure, wrote that, along with Faith, the band's next album, Seventeen Seconds' "gloomscapes" would be "a sonic touchstone for the goth movement."[13] The track "The Final Sound", in particular, he writes "[is] so positively gothic you could almost be fooled into believing that it was lifted from the soundtrack of some Hammer horror gorefest."[13]

Track listing[edit]Edit

All lyrics written by Robert Smith, all music composed by The Cure (Smith, Matthieu HartleyLol TolhurstSimon Gallup)

Side one
  1. "A Reflection"
  2. "Play for Today"
  3. "Secrets"
  4. "In Your House"
  5. "Three"
Side two
  1. "The Final Sound"
  2. "A Forest"
  3. "M"
  4. "At Night"
  5. "Seventeen Seconds"
Note: The US cassette version "A Forest" on Side A and "Play for Today" on Side B. Also, the artwork is different, with some tree branches at left and a reddish blob at the bottom.

Live performances[edit]Edit

During concerts, songs from Seventeen Seconds are typically grouped together and mostly played during the encore, as it has grown to become a fan favourite, though this is not always the case. During 2011, The Cure performed the album in its entirety over nine separate dates, firstly two nights at the Vivid Live Festival at the Sydney Opera HouseSydneyAustralia, then one night at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and then six dates in America, three in Los Angeles and three in New York, with the Australian performances, billed as The Cure: 'Reflections', being recorded for a potential DVD release.

The Reflections tour saw the first airing of several songs from the album for many years. 'In Your House' hadn't been aired since a charity gig at the Barfly Club in London during March 2004,[14] 'Secrets' since a gig in Rio De JaneiroBrazil in March 1987, and 'Three', 'The Final Sound' and 'A Reflection' since the original Seventeen Seconds tour in 1980, though between 1981 and 2008, the band sometimes closed concerts with 'Forever', a lengthy, mostly improvised piece based on the music of 'Three'. 'Seventeen Seconds' itself hadn't had a full airing since 1981, although it was used as the opening song to a festival gig inFrance in 2002 (though on this occasion, Robert Smith played the song as a solo effort).

The remaining songs from Seventeen Seconds have been played more often than the others. 'Play For Today' and 'At Night' have invariably featured in either the main set of a gig or during the encore, although 'At Night' hasn't been played since the last Reflections gig in 2011. 'M' was mostly played as part of the encore, though again it hasn't featured since the last Reflections gig in 2011. The most played song from the album however, is the lead single 'A Forest', which has become the most played Cure song with over 800 appearances and counting, featuring invariably as either the last or second to last song of the main set, during the encore, or in the middle of the main set.


In 2000, Q magazine placed Seventeen Seconds at number 65 in its list of the one-hundred greatest British albums ever.[citation needed]

Seventeen Seconds was featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.


The Cure
  • Mike Hedges – production, engineering
  • Chris Parry – production
  • David Kemp – engineering
  • Martyn Webster – engineering assistance
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