2. Pornography (1982): Pornography is not to be taken lightly. If Faith was Robert Smith paralyzed by his own discontent, Pornography fermented that misery into something worse, reveling in its own bitterness and channeling it into self-destructive dementia. Faith was bathed in grey; Pornography is the dim red of a makeshift darkroom built in a slaughterhouse. Calling it “dark” cheapens the experience — dark merely suggests pain; Pornography is pain itself. It starts on the album’s opener, “One Hundred Years”: “A hundred years of blood, crimson/The ribbon tightens round my throat/I open my mouth and my head bursts open.” It’s a lyrical horror show with a soundtrack to match. Drums pound out a rigid death march, guitars can’t help but squeal; loops of noise play in reverse, and Smith’s voice echoes into the void, twisting and distorting into something less than human. As an album, it’s not something you put on for fun — casual fans will skip it altogether. But as a lesson in extremity, it more than serves its purpose — nothing else comes close. The title track is legitimately unhinged. Samples spiral in the dark, an ominous synth drones deep, and the drums stomp incessantly in a distant room. It’s Robert Smith relinquishing his tired grip on life and turning to fully embrace death. “The Figurehead” approaches something melodic, until the refrain twists and inverts itself into an unholy tritone — the semblance of comfort evaporates, and you’re right there with Smith as he sings, “I will never be clean again.” Not for a little while, at least.

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