Review Summary: Goth's grand finale.
In the mid-80s the Cure’s upbeat brand of melancholy gained them an international fan-base and recognition, especially following the releases of 1985’s The Head On The Door and 1987’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. After 6 years of parading the world with LSD-induced pop and their peculiar twist of light-hearted romance, Smith and his gang of Goths found themselves morosely plundering towards the end of their twenties and albeit, the end of an era.
Robert Smith (lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter) was at a stage in his life when turning thirty represented “a constant feeling of falling apart”; as he so eloquently stated in an interview during the recording sessions of Disintegration. “I was fighting against being a pop star, being larger than life all the time… I got really depressed and started doing drugs again – hallucinogenic drugs.” The product of all this turmoil – The Cure’s magnum opus: Disintegration.
Disintegration has been described as a sequel to 1982’s wrist-slitting fan favourite, Pornography. Yet the two albums are completely unalike. Pornography revels in claustrophobic asphyxiation, unrelenting in its dark lyricism and minimalist landscapes. But Disintegration is spacious and melodious, filled with grand moments of sheer beauty and magnificence. We are launched into an explosion of synth-grandeur; the album’s opening track ‘Plainsong’ wraps you tightly in windswept loneliness as Smith whispers:
‘“I think it’s dark and it looks like rain”, you said. “And the wind is blowing like it’s the end of the world”, you said. “And it’s so cold, it’s like the cold if you were dead”, and then you smiled for a second.’
The opening lines set the scene for the record perfectly; a conversation between two lovers, both facing the realisation that youth was yesterday, being the signifier of creative and emotional death. Before giving you time to contemplate, Smith plunges you in to a shower of sparkles and heartbreak as ‘Pictures of You’s simplistic drums and bass plod along behind swirls of lush guitar and synths. Robert Smith longs for his former youth as he whines:
"I've been looking so long at these pictures of you that I almost believe that they're real... You were bigger and brighter and wider than snow and screamed at the make-believe screamed at the sky and you finally found all your courage to let it all go."
This track highlighting Smith’s lyrical genius, with you passively falling into the narrators character and experiencing the same loss and yearning as the lyrics convey. Despite the mass amount of emotional weight Disintegration holds, the album does offer some respite with the lighter moments of the hit singles ‘Lovesong’ and ‘Lullaby’. ‘Lovesong’ being a radio friendly wedding present to Smith’s teenage love; “I will always love you” repeats above a memorable riff and drum pattern, whereas the latter’s dark tale of a bogeyman figure concludes the first half of the record.
‘Fascination Street’ kick-starts the darker side of the record. Gallup’s thunderous bass line the focal point, it churns through a dark desolate landscape lit with brushes of keyboard and chorus-laden guitar. ‘Fascination Street’s roaring pace is quickly cut short by the moody introspective ocean of sound that is ‘Prayers For Rain’. “I suffocate, I breathe in dirt, and nowhere shines but desolate” snarls Smith as his guitar mockingly circles, repeating the same pattern over and over. This track really gives an opportunity for drummer Boris Williams to shine, as the odd, repetitive drum beat taunts you in the same way Smith’s guitar does.
Before you think Disintegration will you give you room to breathe, you are pulled even further into the depths of melancholy as ‘The Same Deep Water As You’ drowns you in sonic landscape. A slow tempo layer of atmosphere crushes you:
‘”Kiss me goodbye, bow your head and join with me”. And face pushed deep, reflections meet, the strangest twist upon your lips. And disappear, the ripples clear and laughing break against your feet and laughing break the mirror sweet; “so we shall be together”’.
Smith metaphorically narrates drowning with his lover, an escape from his rapidly approaching middle age. His guitar in turn suffocates you, mimicking the calming waves of the ocean, romanticizing the disturbing imagery presented before the final promise to his lover: “I will kiss you forever on nights like this” leaves you aching for a love far from your comprehending. The title track defines the album. Everything the album stands for, conveys musically and lyrically and every hurt Smith makes you suffer is crammed into the eight minutes of ‘Disintegration’. Personally, I think this track should have concluded the album as Smith yelps: “Now that I know that I’m breaking to pieces, I’ll pull out my heart and I’ll feed it to anyone/It’s easier for me to get closer to heaven than ever be whole again”, before concluding with his final statement to his lover: “Both of us knew how the end always is...”.
However this is not the finale of the record, ‘Homesick’ and ‘Untitled’ sway with the same (yet not dull) treated keyboards and phasing guitars whilst Smith’s lyrics contain unchanged dark yet amorous imagery: “And my eyes are bursting hearts in a blood stained sky”. Disintegration closes with a fitting wrench of romantic ambiguity: “Never quite said what I wanted to say to you, never quite managed the words to explain to you, never quite knew how to make them believable, and now the time has gone...”; leaving you terrified to ever come close to feeling the concept of love again.
Aside from the albums emotive value, it’s production, mixing and timelessness thrusts Disintegration far higher above any of The Cure’s other efforts, and arguably any record ever released.