The Cure

...Happily Ever After

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For American ears only, in the years before a new deal with Elektra finally granted the Cure the access to the airwaves that they'd all but given up dreaming of, ...Happily Ever After is nothing less than a two-for-one repackaging of the band's second and third European albums, the brooding gloom of Seventeen Seconds and the affirmative darkness of Faith. It makes for discomforting listening, both for newcomers to the sound of the early group and for fans more accustomed to experiencing the two records in separate sittings. Together with the band's fourth album, Pornography, the two LPs here were the sound of the Cure racing to distance themselves not simply from their early reputation as a moody power pop band, but also from any of the other comparisons, compadres, and contemporaries that the post-punk scene could throw at them. Seventeen Seconds, one U.K. review famously remarked, was the sound of the band sitting in a dark room, staring at clocks. Faith was what happened when those clocks stopped. Both are beautiful records, but they are unrelenting ones, their evocation of the hopelessness that lies on the far side of all emotion palpable enough to begin unraveling the Cure altogether -- a process that Pornography, of course, would complete, but which commenced long before that. Seventeen Seconds was grim enough to prompt keyboard player Mathieu Hartley to quit rather than be party to further such exercises, while Robert Smith himself later described the band's decision to embark on a year-long tour to promote Faith as one of the worst ideas they ever had -- 12 months of "sackcloth and ashes." From a marketing point of view, placing the two albums together was doubtless a genius scheme, one that would introduce new listeners to the band with a double bang for their buck. What that bang would do to those listeners, however, is another matter entirely. And, while ...Happily Ever After itself is best viewed today as just a discographical quirk for collectors' interests only (both albums have long been available separately), that is still a question worth pondering. With the lights turned down low, of course.

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