Vinyl Sessions - The Cure: Pornography

Vinyl Sessions - The Cure: Pornography

19th March 2023

"It doesn't matter if we all die" declares Robert Smith by way of introduction, kicking The Cure's most desolate 45 minutes on vinyl into life.

1982 looked auspiciously like the year of “New Pop”. Audacious and flamboyant pop acts coloured the UK charts that in many ways was a follow on from the previous two years of the synth-pop electronic acts that enjoyed a huge success during this period (Ultravox, Visage, Depeche Mode et al). Elsewhere, there was all manner of intriguing new happenings that were starting to make their presence felt on the fringes of the independent scene.

The Cure: outsiders and proud of it. The Cure didn't fit in with any scene back then. They existed on their own terms, impossible to pigeon-hole. Even prior to Pornography their appearances on Top Of The Pops were, to say the least, individualistic. Having made their debut on the show in April 1980 with 'A Forest' and followed it up with 'Primary', no one could have predicted they'd go onto become one of the most influential bands of their generation.

Prior to ‘Pornography’, The Cure had been something of an anomaly. Not aggressive or heavy enough for those still reliving their punk youth, not arty enough for the new romantics, not pop enough for the new wave. Of course "post-punk" wasn't a thing back then; Punk had finally retreated back to the underground mostly dominated by belligerent working-class youths disillusioned with Thatcher, English football, the Tories and life in general.

'Charlotte Sometimes' preceded ‘Pornography’ by seven months, a single that undoubtedly heralded a new direction between the oblique soundscapes of third album ‘Faith’ and the bleak narrative of its forthcoming successor. Fuelled by depression and anxiety that resulted in a lot of self-medication, vocalist, guitar player and songwriter in chief Robert Smith, Simon Gallop (bass) and Lol Tolhurst (drums) wanted to make a record representative of the band's mood at the time. In fact, ‘Pornography’ could very well have been the last Cure record, so fraught were the sessions which culminated in Gallop leaving the group once the album was completed. Recorded over a three month period at the start of 1982, ‘Pornography’comprised of eight songs, each telling its own story of misery, despair and desolation. Perhaps even more remarkable was that just two years later The Cure would go on to become one of the biggest bands in the world, releasing happy-go-lucky pop songs such as 'The Caterpillar' and 'The Lovecats'. But back in 1982, their ethos was anything but. "Derange and disengage everything" declares Smith at the end of 'Short Term Effect', a song that deals with the fantasy of death from the perspective of natural elements while on 'The Figurehead', he ominously intones "I will lose myself tomorrow" as if all hope has gone.

Arising from a truly tortuous experience in the studio after they had completed their draining European tour of Faith the preceding year, The Cure by this point were battle-scarred and angry and were set on trying to make a record which was going to justify or validate their whole existence or failing that, they would be packing it in. Recording sessions were chaotically stop-start, with the band getting ever more immersed in the twin evils of drink and drugs. Released in May 1982, ‘Pornography’ bore zero resemblance to anything else that was around at the time. Its sheer impenetrable sense of nihilistic doom and existential angst immediately set it apart from the rest of their contemporaries. Many music critics greeted it with lukewarm, even indifferent, reviews. Some mocked and dismissed the album’s overriding sense of sheer unrelenting pessimism and outright misanthropy. ‘Pornography’ became The Cure’s first epitaph as it were; it literally destroyed the band. Even today it sounds highly individualistic, yet still demands to be heard as a full body of work rather than broken down into individual segments. The band may have been at their lowest ebb during the making of ‘Pornography’ but this exemplifies the sheer power of the music recorded therein. Ending with the title track, another six and a half minutes of disconsolate melancholy that closes with the words "I must fight this sickness." ‘Pornography’ remains The Cure’s most poignant album, an album that will never grow old or become dated.

The session will be curated by Steve Clark. The album playback will be followed by a Q&A session.

After a short break, we'll follow the album with our usual ‘Dead Wax’ session. Bring along a 7” of your choice and hear it played through the Arts Centre PA. This can be anything you like, for any reason – the more ‘out there’ the better.

The bar will be open throughout.

Doors  12pm, Starts 12.30pm

Tickets £3

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