April 1981: The Cure Release FAITH

Monday, April 10, 2023

Robert Smith was not exactly in a good place when it came time for the Cure to record the band's third studio album, Faith. The band's singer and songwriter was desperate to find something to believe in, and having absolutely no luck. A rash of deaths a little too comfort as well as band mate Lol Tolhurst's mom being diagnosed with a terminal illness sent Smith to the last place many might expect to find him: at church.

“I’d think about death and I’d look at the people in the church and I knew they were there above all because they wanted eternity,” Smith told The Face (via The Quietus) about haunting churches with a notebook for scribbling lyrics in hand. “I realized I had no faith at all, and I was scared.”

The dark cloud hung over the singer as he set about making Faith with the rest of the Cure: “I was 21, but I felt really old,” he muttered at the time. “I had absolutely no hope for the future. I felt life was pointless.”

That vibe permeated the recording sessions, as the Cure cycled through no less than five different studios in hopes of finding one that suited the band. Before Smith and company could even get started, the downbeat vibes were enough for the band's keyboardist Matthieu Hartley to call it a day and walk away from the Cure: “I realized the group were heading towards suicidal, somber music,” he said later. “The sort of thing that didn’t interest me at all.”

Opening with the funereal dirge "The Holy Hour," the album lifts off with second track and only single, "Primary," the urgent tune lamenting the uncertain fates of innocent children blissfully unaware of the horrors life as in store.

FUN FACT: "Primary" features both Robert Smith and Simon Gallup playing bass, with no guitars (or keyboards) on the track at all.

Ranging from the somber meditation "All Cats Are Grey," to the jangled rush of "Doubt," Faith maintains an ominous and dark-lit mood across the LP's eight tracks. Released in April 1981 (the exact release date has been marked as the 10th, the 14th and the 17th, depending), the record made waves at UK record stores, climbing as high as #14 on the UK album chart. In America, Faith was the second Cure release to crack the Billboard 200, sneaking in to reach #196 (Seventeen Seconds made it all the way to #186).

“I’ve always tried to make records that are of one piece, that explore a certain kind of atmosphere to the fullest. If you’re going to fully explore something, you need more than one song to do it," Smith told Record Mirror in May 1981. "That’s why I always liked Nick Drake’s albums or Pink Floyd records like Ummagumma.” 

FUN FACT: The Faith album cover was designed by multiple time Cure member Porl Thompson. The image is a treated image picture of the Bolton Priory church, shrouded in a veil of fog.