Within the space of two short years the Cure mysteriously transformed themselves from a more accessible Wire/Buzzcocks hybrid into the grandiose-haired gloom merchants they resembled for decades. While the international success of singles like "Boys Don't Cry" might have pointed to a continuation of the same formula, Smith decided to take the band into choppier waters. SEVENTEEN SECONDS marked the start of the Cure Phase II. Somewhat reminiscent of bands like Siouxsie & the Banshees (a group Smith played with for a few albums), SEVENTEEN SECONDS is not an album for the faint at heart.
The addition of perennial favorite Simon Gallup on bass and the short-lived but effective Mathleu Hartley on keyboards expanded the Cure's previously sparse sound, adding layers of texture that complemented Smith's longer, less accessible songs. While "Play for Today" hearkens back to the bands poppier days, "Seventeen Seconds" and "Secrets" show that the band was not about to turn back from its new approach. "A Reflection" is eerily beautiful, but the album's true highlight is the perky-but-sad "A Forest." Perhaps one of the least-known but most influential records of the early 1980s, and a sign of things to come down the road.
Rolling Stone (p.79) - 3.5 stars out of 5 - "[With] clipped guitars, staccato bass, drums that crackle with tension and icy background keyboards that hum like defective air conditioning."
Spin (p.109) - "[The album] finds Robert Smith starting to get his 'Phantom of the Opera' on..."
Q (6/00, p.65) - Ranked #65 in Q's "100 Greatest British Albums" - "...A clean, contemplative, at times desolate guitar record that...tapped into a peculiarly suburban paranoia....their career as Goth ambassadors was launched."
Uncut (p.124) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Poised and atmospheric, there's a Nick Drake-like organic clarity to SEVENTEEN SECONDS..."