Monday, April 30, 2012

Album Retrospective: The Cure - Disintegration

Album Rating: A+
While writing on behalf of an album, I often think to myself what the purpose of reviewing music is. I usually just set my opinions to text and then publish them to the wonderful web without really taking into consideration what other people will actually do with my writing. I either equate writing a review to either simply expressing an opinion (what I usually do) or attempting to urge readers to listen to whatever it is you are writing about. I suppose in plenty of cases I've written a piece with the intention of convincing people that something is worth listening to, but I have never sat down thinking "I absolutely must make people listen to this album". It is definitely a gratifying feeling knowing that something you wrote encouraged somebody to sit down with an album that they would later on love dearly, but that isn't something I've seeked in my writing. I've thought to myself "this is an album that people must hear", but have never found it in myself to justify such a statement. As you have probably guessed what I'm getting at by now, Disintegration is an album that I truly believe that people absolutely must at least attempt to listen to. Of course I will outline why The Cure's magnum opus is essential for your listening, but I am just putting it out there right now, that as well as expressing my feelings for this music, my intention with this piece is to convince you to listen to this album.

Since this is entirely my personal opinion (I mean, you don't have to go listen to Disintegration, even though it's a really good idea) and I can make as many bold statements as I please, I believe that Disintegration rivals with maybe a few key records in musical history (Pet Sounds, Sgt. Peppers, etc.) at the position of the greatest album ever made. Disintegration has some of those truly surreal qualities that put it on an entirely different level than most music. Never before has any artist captured the ethereal terrors of a nightmare as vividly as Robert Smith has on "Lullaby", through his breathlessly whispered lyrics. Never has a band framed a portrait (no pun intended) of heartbreak as flawless as "Pictures of You". Never have I ever heard a band sound so huge that they make the entire world feel so small. Disintegration is the epitome of dream-pop, dream-rock, dream-anything, in the way that it breaks down anything you've ever known of reality and creates sonic textures that build landscapes for miles and miles in all directions. And as far as I've ever heard, nothing labeled as music has ever been able to do that before.

Take the opener "Plainsong" as an example. By its title it comes off as a simple introductory track meant to set the stage for the pretty dream-pop album that you are anticipating. Which it sounds like, from the few seconds of windchimes that introduce the album. But once it explodes and Disintegration unveils itself, the song is anything but 'plain'. There's no real description of "Plainsong" that I could give you that I feel would do the track any sort of justice. When listened to under the correct conditions (which the original record sleeve states simply as "loud"), it grips your chest and makes your being and anything surrounding you feel so small and frail. It makes it seem like nothing in the world outside of the soaring synths and Robert Smith's lovesickness exists. It sounds like the transition of your final living memory of lying on your deathbed surrounded by loved ones to standing at the gates of heaven as they welcomingly open. And just like that, Disintegration begins, opening an entirely new world of sonic beauty, peace, and darkness.

Prior to Disitengration, The Cure has dabbled around from the beginnings of goth, to radio-friendly pop tunes, to post-punk. While Disintegration probably fits best in the category of dream-pop for it's ethereal sonic differences from anything they've ever been labeled before, some bits of the band's past still shine through here. The pulsating beat and the plucked bassline of the title track throws back to The Cure's post-punk days, on albums such as Seventeen Seconds. The most radio-friendly song on the album, "Lovesong", is definitely one of the band's hits that put out a good fight on the charts (as well as "Pictures of You", but not without sinfully cutting it's seven and a half minutes to a "single version"). Disintegration is essentially everything that the band has done prior to 1989 coming together, to form the masterpiece that it is. At the same time as being The Cure's best album, it is also their most diverse.

The "catch" about Disintegration (if it had one) is that it is easily one of the darkest albums ever made. Anybody who has heard "Lovesong" knows that it isn't nearly as giddy and upbeat as any of the band's other traditional love songs such as "Just Like Heaven". The landscapes that Disintegration creates are vast and beautiful, but they are also desolate, cold, and dark. Another hit off the album, "Lullaby", is a bleak poppy track detailing a nightmare of Robert Smith's about being eaten by a spider-man more terrifying than anything Marvel could have ever concieved. "Pictures of You" is a heartbreakingly accurate and vivid post-breakup account, outlining newfound desperation and regret. The lyrics of the title track are enough to chill your blood, with lines such as "now that I know I'm breaking to pieces/I'll pull out my heart and I'll feed it to anyone". Disintegration has a beautiful soul, plagued by depression and darkness.

Overall, Disintegration is a thought-provoking listen that will pry open your mind and make for a listen unlike any other. As one of the greatest albums of all time, I feel that this album is an absolute must-have for any fan of any music. At least for me, there is no album out there that is capable of doing the things that The Cure has done here. From the moment that "Plainsong" erupts into its angelic cry captured on artificial audio equipment to the dying synths of "Untitled", Disintegration is a beautiful experience that you want to feel before you die.


01 Plainsong
02 Pictures of You
03 Closedown
04 Love Song
05 Last Dance*
06 Lullaby
07 Fascination Street
08 Prayers for Rain
09 Same Deep Water as You
10 Disintegration
11 Homesick*
12 Untitled

*These tracks are referred to as bonus tracks, but they were released on the original CD (not on the vinyl) so I personally include them as part of the album. 

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