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Friday, 7 September 2012

The Cure - Disintegration (1989)

One of my favourite cartoons is South Park. I remember watching the first episode ‘Cartman Gets an Anal Probe’ on Channel 4 as a spotty fifteen year-old and almost wetting myself – at that moment it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. Over the next few months, catchphrases from the show and the show’s irreverent toilet humour had spread throughout my school: you couldn’t walk down a corridor without hearing phrases such as “Oh my God, they killed Kenny”, “M’kay” or “Beefcake.” And as I grew older and my humour became more sophisticated, so did South Park. One of my favourite early episodes of the show is the one where a mechanical Barbara Streisand monster attacks South Park, and Robert Smith from the Cure is called in to save the day. I wonder if Smith figured that turning into a gigantic butterfly and fighting Mecha-Streisand on South Park would have a direct impact upon album sales? Well it did.

At that time, I owned quite a few seven-inch singles by the Cure: ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, ‘Inbetween Days’ and ‘Just Like Heaven’, but had never owned a Cure album – there were just so many of them, I didn’t really know where to start. So when Stan called out to Robert Smith that Disintegration was one of the best albums ever made, I knew that was music that I had to buy.

It’s strange thinking back now that I based an album purchase on the recommendation of a poorly-animated eight-year old boy, but I was glad I did. I loved the album, and would often lie in bed, half-asleep, letting the songs wash over me. As a teenager, my friends and I would socialise around music: playing instruments, talking about music, and playing records to each other. We’d spend hours listening to Primal Scream, REM, and Suede, talking about the guitar-work of Bernard Butler, or the vocals of Michael Stipe. But Disintegration wasn’t an album I would take round friends’ houses, or stick on during social gatherings; this was a very private album that I kept to myself.

It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes an album is produced where you feel as though the artist has poured their heart and soul into making it: Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, Nirvana’s In Utero and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless are such examples. Disintegration can also be added to this list.

The album opens with the massive synth sounds of ‘Plainsong’: the song manages to capture an epic, cinematic sound whilst simultaneously sounding gentle and warm. The track is soaked in rich reverb, and it sounds like it could be the theme to a David Lynch film. Smith’s vocals echo and drift around as simple guitar hooks float by and leave you in awe. The lyrics are introspective and gloomy, but the melody and delivery mean that it never sounds miserable or depressing. ‘Pictures of You’ combines perfect pop melodies with a sense of longing and yearning. An absolutely stunning piece of music. I love how the guitar and bass weave in and out of each other during the introduction, and how Smith’s vocals build throughout the song. ‘Closedown’ creeps back into the epic territory of ‘Plainsong’ with its massive synth riffs, rolling drum patterns and subtle guitar-work. ‘Love Song’ is easily the poppiest song on the album, with its infectious keyboard melodies and driving bass. ‘Lullaby’ is another excellent song, with its orchestral synths, pizzicato violin and stop-and-start rhythm. ‘Fascination Street’ is probably my least favourite song on the album, but it is still a very accomplished piece of music. To me, the mix sounds a little crowded, and I’m not keen on the metallic sound of the bass guitar. ‘The Same Deep Water as You’ is just heartbreaking: the music is beautiful, tender, and dare I say, romantic. The lyrics are ambiguous and mysterious, they seem to hint at a love too intense to bear. They aren’t merely there to drive the song forward; they are heartfelt lines of poetry set to music:

"Kiss me goodbye" pushing out before I sleep
It's lower now and slower now the strangest
Twist upon your lips but I don't see and I don't
Feel but tightly hold up silently my hands
Before my fading eyes and in my eyes your
Smile the very last thing before I go

I will kiss you I will kiss you I will kiss you
Forever on nights like this I will kiss you I will
Kiss you and we shall be together

The untitled album-closer is a song full of hope and nostalgia. The music has a playful, almost whimsical quality that leaves you feeling positive. The Cure have a reputation for being miserable – I’ve never felt that. Introspective, maybe – but miserable misses the point. This is a stunning album that I would strongly recommend – it’s not necessarily the easiest of listens, but is certainly one of the most rewarding.

The charity shops can have this album when they prise it free from my cold, dead hands.

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deep-blue said...

Disintegration is indeed a stunning album. I expected that you will keep it.

JC said...

Indeed, it's an album that pulls at your emotions. There's no way I could get rid of it.

Anonymous said...

amazing album.

KiBe said...

Lullaby ismy favourite Cure song, amazing

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