Review Summary: Return of the Goth.
‘Disintegration’ is a grand, elegant, atmospheric body of work; both a return to the accomplished gothic style the band toyed with in the early eighties, and the culmination of all the experiments pursued by the tenuous gang of goths in the years preceding the album‘s 1989 release date. Initially dubbed a ‘commercial suicide’ by the record label, the album went on to become The Cure’s magnum opus - it’s epic grandeur enticed listeners into bolstering the album up to an impressive #3 placing on the UK album charts - #12 in the US, with recent worldwide sales figures claiming over 3 million copies sold.
What a perfect time it was for the band to become massive, too, as ‘Disintegration’ audibly sounds like The Cure’s crowning glory. It’s at once, both epic and subtle, expressing the same gloomy notions as previous works but doing so in a much more sophisticated and mature fashion. Take, for example, the fact that the majority of the record consists of lengthy instrumentally-driven tracks, with Smith’s poetic confessions serving as the cherry on top of an already mouth-watering cake. It doesn’t rely on simplistic, easy, 3 minute pop songs to draw attention - it expects the listener to invest time and to absorb its splendorous atmospheres, which isn’t that difficult a task when the quality is as undeniable as it is here.
Opening to the superb ‘Plainsong’, the mood and standard of the entire disc are set firmly in place, with icy-cold synths whisking up both magnificently uplifting and darkly downtrodden tones to accompany the gorgeous flickers of guitar and stadium-sized percussion driving the number home. From ‘Plainsong’ we move to the beautiful ‘Pictures of You’ - it’s generous seven and half minutes rarely seeming tedious or unwarranted - a trait which the remaining 10 tracks solidify to an increasingly impressive standard. For all the times the phrase ‘not a single weak track on the whole album’ gets thrown around; ‘Disintegration’ is one of those rare examples of when the phrase rings utterly true and couldn’t be more accurate.
Apart from the dominating lengthy pieces that are most frequent in the latter half, such as the desperate title track; the subtle undercurrent of stormy sound effects present on ‘The Same Deep Water As You’, and the effortlessly sentimental ‘Homesick’; ‘Disintegration’ bares its intelligence by pacing itself with shorter, but nonetheless compelling outings. Such tracks include the almost-poppy ‘Love Song’ - one of Smith’s most starkly personal pieces of writing, and the dark splendour of ‘Fascination Street’, menacing and brooding with its propulsive bass, and tense, spidery lead.
One could write about each and every track in great detail, but for want of not producing a 17 page review, this writer opted to pick just a few of the standout moments detailed above. Every listener will have their own favourites anyway - especially fitting, seeing as the album is, overall, the strongest effort The Cure ever produced. ‘Disintegration’ is an album that works best when heard in a single uninterrupted sitting, letting its sweeping atmosphere seep in and take the listener on a gloomy, midnight rollercoaster ride through the downs of existence.
‘Disintegration’ is the finest album The Cure ever constructed, featuring a consistently brilliant atmosphere on a level the group never quite managed before. Albums like ‘Pornography’ were immensely dark but suffered the tiniest amount from omnipresent melodrama, and that’s precisely why ‘Disintegration’ is a better album - because it takes all the captivating angst and darkness from the past, but expresses said emotions with a newfound grasp of subtlety and sophistication, so that any of the issues that held previous efforts back are simply erased; overcome; bettered. This is truly the work of a master of its field; the master being The Cure and the field being alternative rock. ‘Disintegration’ is more than just merely the best Cure record - it’s one of the greatest alternative rock albums of the entire decade.