As we all know, even today, The Cure have been around for a really long time. Like, a really long time. Released in 1989, “Disintegration” is the band’s eighth album. Think about that for a second. Before the eighties ended they were already at eight records. Most bands don’t even make that amount of albums. Anyway, this record is a monumental success in the world of Alternative Rock, and it’s still hailed as one of the best albums of all time. Even Kyle from South Park once proclaimed “Disintegration is the best album ever,” so yeah. Today we add another record to my “Albums of my Life” series with the Cure’s “Disintegration.”
It might seem silly to those not of this age, but the return to gloomy, slow alt rock found it’s way back into the band in part because of Smith’s drug use. The drug use however, was a result of him coming to the realization that his thirtieth birthday was closing in. Like I said, that might seem silly, but it’s a big deal in your life. Anyway, the album over with soft murmurs of wind chimes, like a cool night air is passing through. Then, like an explosion of fireworks over a lake, the song erupts and the slow yet purposeful drumming and texturing of “Plainsong” overtakes us. It’s not only one of the best songs they ever recorded, but it’s an unbelievable way to start an album. Robert Smith’s voice has always been a unique one, but the way the album is recorded really lets his voice came in waves, weaving in and out of the instruments.
It’s funny to consider at the time that people higher up thought this record would be commercial suicide. It was the opinion of many that they should stick to their light hearted material, but Smith, wisely so, had other intentions. There are so many powerful songs on this record, and the more you listen to it and get deeper, you see it’s full potential. Take a song like “Pictures of You.” It’s a more musically light song compared to the rest of the tracks, but the lyrics are adamantly down and upsetting. For me this song has always been a reminder of how quickly relationships can take a bad turn and you're left with nothing, except memories. In his lyrics, Smith paints a vivid picture of a forlorn lover who has lost everything, and in the layers of guitars Smith and Porl Thompson give the sang added depth.
By track four though, the Cure start bringing out their big guns. More than likely the most recognizable song on the album comes to us in the form of “Lovesong.” I know this was one of the earliest songs I ever had from them, and it fits perfectly in the dreary themes of loneliness and despair that filter through the album. The production quality of this song, and of the album overall has this murky, deep water feeling to it. It really does overtake the music at some point and adds weight whenever it’s needed. I’m always found myself wondering if the presentation on “Disintegration” reminded anyone else of struggle. What I mean is that emotionally it’s a difficult record, full of want, desire, many regrets, and ultimate sadness. It’s a journey to get through, much like trying to drag a body through a swamp. It’s difficult, and i can’t help but think that lyrically, and figuratively the album’s muddled, deeply textured sound is the trials and journey of Smith trying to get through the swamp of realizing he’s about to be thirty.
As we get to the halfway point of the record, the band really hits its stride. Tracks six through eight are all excellent, and they serve as the emotional core of the entire album. “Lullaby” has a soft but sinister element to it, and Smith’s voice is at his whispery, breathy best. There are still times where I’m not sure what he’s saying, but in this instance the tone and approach he uses is more important than the overall lyrics. The next song, and arguably their best song period, is called “Fascination Street.”
There are so few songs that drive the beat and capture the spirit of the album in a way that “Fascination Street” does. The thumping of the drums, the slow rattle of the bass, and the eventual emergence of Smith’s voice only add to the essence of the song. It’s a submissively dark song,and it lures you in like a predator in the night. Except in this case, you don’t want to leave the strange, enticing area that makes up “Fascination Street.”
“Prayers for Rain” comes next, and in my opinion, it bridges the gap between the start and finish of the record. It’s another nightmarishly slow and deliberate song, but it excels at that task. The keyboards are melancholy and lush in a way that other synths and keys hadn’t been used during this time period. This was recorded in the late eighties, and while plenty of dark records had been released in that time, a band that big hadn’t gone into the heart of darkness so thoroughly. It’s almost as if the record was a reaction not only to the more poppy albums the band had been putting out, but also to the glam pop that was festering everywhere during this time.
The title track, finding us at number 10, is the beginning of the end for this amazing record, and this song in particular is pretty brilliant. It opens with a long instrumental section, which the band does regularly, but it’s this building of tension that sets it apart from other tracks in which they use that method. Not only does this signify the nearing culmination of the album, but also of the turmoil that is everywhere and all encompassing on the record.
The last song, “Untitled,” begins in a very unusual way compared to the rest of the tracks. The keys are slightly more upbeat and clear, but quickly enough the song starts down a smiliarly themed road as the rest of the album. It very much feels like an end of the album song, but don’t think I mean that in a bad way. It’s a great track, and for one last brief period we share the regret that Smith has laid out for us to understand over the last seventy plus minute record. It’s a slow winding song, and it signifies having made it through the darkness and evil of the night. This is the song where Smith comes to terms with the mistakes he’s made, and is finally figuring out either how to remedy the issue, or get to a place where he can live with them.
Thanks for reading, see you Wednesday.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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