aith. An internal sense of belief in something, ranging in scope from the confident to the utterly unassailable. Be it material, as appropriated by football fans convinced of an eventual escape from dreary small-town obscurity (although, in truth, this is more akin to hope) or spiritual; an unbending trust in scripture or ideology, powerful enough to elevate it above the usual prerequisites of rationality. Faith is a puissant concept, yet it is problematic in isolation. If, as Robert Smith declares, there is “nothing left but faith,” what does this leave us with? If the source of our belief has ceased to be (or never was) our faith is rendered irrelevant or, at best, devalued to the status of maintaining our ignorance.
A sobering thought, and an interpretation that sits well with the pervading themes of isolation and doubt carved deep into this album. But I suspect there could be more to it than that. The Cure have cruised down the existentialist highway (it’s infinite, you’re free to go anywhere) on enough previous occasions to suggest that the faith in question may be shorthand for Sartre’s concept of ‘bad faith.’ This may explain why, amidst the bell-tolling “Holy Hour,” “all around the children play / Games they tired of yesterday.” My interpretation is that these children are denying their freedom; by taking on the prescribed role of “child” and playing the games they feel they ought instead of the games they may truly desire. They are a metaphor for the exhibition of bad faith.
Similarly, those creeping, swirling “Other Voices.” “Change your mind / You’re always wrong,” they hauntingly insist—forcing self-doubt upon the hapless protagonist. Which path is authentic freedom, and which are the subliminal traps of bad faith? Parallels too can be drawn from the mixing of philosophical traditions in “All Cats Are Grey.” Seemingly a nod toward Plato’s cave allegory, the themes of self-imposed naivete and mistaken belief in what is ‘real’ can also be applied to the search for true freedom of action. We must not remain trapped, like Plato’s prisoners, unaware of our incarceration, content with our role and convinced that all cats must be grey because we’ve never seen them beyond fleeting movements past our darkened cells.
It’s safe to say that the word “bleak” cannot easily be overapplied to this record, released as part of the continuing double-cd Cure reissue project. As with Seventeen Seconds, the remastered sound has been handled sensibly—cleaned up, but not pointlessly increased in volume or overly messed around with. “Carnage Visors,” the doom-heavy soundtrack to a film no-one has ever seen, is here, just as it was on the original cassette release. Slightly dubiously, it has been stuck on the end of the album rather than included on the bonus disc (presumably due to its considerable length). I’d rather that hadn’t happened, but at least a suitably respectful time gap has been left after the closing bars of “Faith” to emphasise that it remains separate.
The bonus disc itself is an intriguing surprise. Who knew that the studio out-takes from Faith would sound so .. well .. cheerful? Yet “Going Home Time,” “The Violin Song,” and “A Normal Story” all skip along with a smile and a nonchalant wave. An alternate take on “Primary” provides some interest too, with the lyrical focus firmly on primary colours. Slightly fuzzy home demos? Yep, they’re here—sharing space with a melancholy setlist of live tracks; chief pairing being the despair-and-destruction combo of “Faith” and “Forever,” in excellently extended forms. Plus you get “Charlotte Sometimes,” if you’ve somehow managed to be a fan but not hear that. All in all, an enticing set of extras.
Of course, who is to say that what you’ve just read hasn’t been a textual expression of a severe case of journalistic bad faith—the kind of bizarrely pretentious review I’ve been conditioned to believe appears on the internet? Are these words truly mine, my genuine feelings on the subject of The Cure’s Faith, or merely a presentation of the intellectual stimulation I erroneously imagine it provides? Faith could be the foreboding bastion of existentialist thought suggested by the fog-shrouded imagine of Bolton Abbey that appears on its face. Or it could all--review, record, received wisdom—just be a load of bollocks. That’s the beauty of it, frankly. What’s left when you simply cannot tell what is real? Faith.