When the Cure released this record in 1982, it was quite unlike any record that the post-punk/new wave scene had seen at that point. The music on this record, aside from showing the music world what gothic rock was and where it was going, tells an awful lot about the stability of the band at that point. This record, as well as the tour that would follow it, were infamous for presenting the band at a point when they were deteriorating as a unit and as individuals. It’s well-known that the relationship between vocalist Robert Smith and bassist Simon Gallup had hit a low point during this time period.
The negative energy of this record is apparent right from the start, as the opening track “One Hundred Years” is proof of. Right away, the Cure are noticeably much more mean-spirited than at any point on their prior releases. This track represents a distinct shift in Robert Smith’s role as a detached, ghostly figure to a forthcoming force of menace and terror. However, it’s highly likely that this shift in persona is less a result of conscious decision and experimentation than an indictment of the low point Smith had reached. This notion is further endorsed by the following track “A Short Term Effect”, which feels far less focused and driven than the previous track. For an example of the Cure at their absolute scariest, look to “Siamese Twins”, which is Smith’s horrifying psychological profile of sex. This ends side one on a relatively high note, but heading into side two turns out to be a bit of a letdown. It’s an unfortunate reality that side two of this record drops the already shaky focus that side one had. Side two’s best track is “A Strange Day”; although there are some interesting musical ideas expressed (many of which turned out to be quite influential), finding many of them convincing can prove to be a difficult task at times. With that said, the overall darkness of this record is something to be admired. There are few records in the annals of popular music that reach this record’s level of black, helpless cynicism.
The unfortunate reality of this record is that it has the potential to be much better than it actually is. Although there’s no denying that it’s a pretty good record (and undoubtedly significant), it’s quite clear that the deteriorating relationships within the band definitely played a hand in preventing it from being a great record. However, it goes without saying that “One Hundred Years” is without a doubt one of the band’s best tracks and serves as the ultimate calling card for just how dark this band could get. This record also holds a unique place within the Cure’s overall catalog, because it manages to be one of the most interesting records in the catalog without actually being included among the best of the best of the catalog. No, this record isn’t of the same quality that its sequel ‘Disintegration’ would turn out to be seven years later. The mere presence of this record in history is worth celebrating on some level, though, as there’s no denying that it would steer the direction of gothic rock and so called “dark wave” throughout the duration of the decade. Innovative, if not perfected.