As with just about every album the group ever did, Purity, the band's debut effort, screams one thing in particular about the Essence -- namely, that the three members want to be the Cure. THEY REALLY WANT TO BE THE CURE. This can't be stated enough because frankly, it's true, and while one should allow for first efforts tending to be derivative anyway, Purity really takes the biscuit. With the same style lineup as that band had in its earliest days -- guitar/bass/drums -- playing much the same musical efforts that the Cure did, and with Diener sounding almost exactly like Robert Smith, what more can be said? Then there are the song titles -- on this album, samples include "The Waving Girl," "A Reflected Dream," and "From My Mouth." It's little wonder that the Cure fan base has long had a particular bone to pick with the Essence as a result. The kicker is that the threesome is rather good at what they do -- while one can easily wish that practically every song doesn't call to mind another, wholly separate Cure number, it's still an addictive formula no matter who uses it. Guitars digitally delay and echo into infinity, psych effects combine with crisp, more modern touches and atmospherics here and there, and, of course, Diener and his amazing wonder wail. Or one could point to bassist Jerry and his earnest attempts to clone Simon Gallup and so forth. Arguably the band does bring in other influences to bear -- Diener's guitars sometimes call Echo and the Bunnymen's Will Sergeant to mind -- and generally things are far less wracked than the Cure at its most extreme. But the point remains that everything the Essence has done, somebody else has done better, and in most cases that someone is an Englishman known for his hairstyle, lipstick, and music all in combination.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett