Nearly Perfect Albums #3

Disintegration – The Cure

Pictures of You – The Cure (1989, Fiction Records, Taken from ‘Disintegration’)

In 1989, after (I think) six albums of trying (and failing) to conquer the world with a brand of quirky leftfield oddball Goth pop which was both happy and sad in equal measures, The Cure released ‘Disintegration’.   An album that was nearly all gloom and doom, full of songs that were epic in their structure and their statement.  It looked at first, like an album that would lead to career suicide. 

However, it turned out that people wanted epic, and they wanted doom and relentless gloom and it sold by the bucketload and finally propelled the band to the global success that was long overdue.  It also meant for a little bit at least, The Cure could put down the trumpets.

You might say that the publics acceptance was down to the singles.  There was ‘Lullaby’, with its spiky strings and earworm-y chorus about spiders, surely one of the weirdest songs to have ever cracked the Top Five.  Then there was ‘Pictures of You’ a song so massive and epic that businesspeople went out and built stadiums just so The Cure had a venue big enough to do it justice.  There was even Lovesong, a soppy, erm, love song written by Smith as a wedding present for his new bride (well its beats earrings I suppose) which exploited the public’s need for a catchy chorus and a well placed string section perfectly (particular in the USA where it peaked at Number 2).  

But you would be wrong to say it’s the singles.  They are, if you like, just the lipstick at the top of the make up box.  The real brilliance of ‘Disintegration’ lays in huge sweeping chunks of synth obsessed, and I’ll use the word again, gloom inspired, mastery at the bottom of the box.

From the monumental opener ‘Plainsong’, which is ushered in by chimes that sound like they are warning of you of a storm approaching.  Through the menacing, rumbling bass of ‘Fascination Street’ and the shuddering misery of ‘Prayers for Rain’, right up to the accordion that closes ‘Untitled’.  ‘Disintegration’ is a bleak, stormy masterpiece.

Fascination Street – The Cure (1989, Fiction Records, Taken from ‘Disintegration’)

Plainsong – The Cure (1989, Fiction Records, Taken from ‘Disintegration’)

I don’t suppose its any real surprise that this album has a reputation about being depressing, it kind of is, but it’s a beautiful sort of depressing, one covered in dry ice and played out in a stadium and handing out decaying roses to anyone who wants one.  Its embracing that doom and it invites you to share in it.  I personally think it’s an album full of beauty (a dark sort of beauty perhaps), and its album I find myself enjoying the more I listen to it. 

As predicted last week – the one thing that is wrong with this album is that is too long, there are too many songs (which despite being very good) that clock in at eight or nine minutes but saying that its easily The Cure’s best record, it’s ambitious, inspiring and creative, but best of all, it’s nearly perfect.

4 Comments

  1. JTFL says:

    Probably sacrilege to say but I was done with the Cure by 1989, and can’t bear to listen to either Pictures or Lovesong one more time. I loved early Cure and was lucky enough to see them in small clubs in their trio days, when they were still unknown in the States. They became massive here–not quite U2 level massive but still arena/stadium massive. Couldn’t stand it. Had to abandon the Cure to the masses. New Order as well, although it was partly because of over-exposure and partly because of their half-assed derivative music.

    Hope everyone is having a swell day!

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  2. JC says:

    Excellent analysis of the album. It does just go on a bit too much for me.

    It’s yet another that I sought out on vinyl fairly recently, after getting a new turntable etc, although it was the remastered and reissued version I ended up with as the second-hand market for Cure originals is often a bit stupid, price wise.

    Lullaby still sounds amazing all these years later.

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    1. barrystubbs says:

      I was rather pleased with the ‘lipstick in the top of the box’ line.

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  3. The Swede says:

    I saw The Cure at Wembley Arena on the Disintegration tour in 1989, a concert that lasted over 3½ hours. Prior to that I’d only seen them twice before, two shows on the 1979 Join Hands tour supporting Siouxsie & the Banshees, where Robert Smith played in both bands. I’ve been to several gigs in Wembley Arena over the years, but The Cure’s sound was easily the best I’ve ever experienced in that barn. I haven’t listened to Disintegration in a while to be honest, but it was a firm favourite of mine at the time.

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