The Cure is one of my favorite bands and has been since middle school. I get excited whenever they come on the radio or my shuffle, and I always start singing along. The album I credit for starting my obsessive listening to them is their eighth album, 1989’s “Disintegration.”
“Disintegration,” to me, is the defining Cure album. It is also a significant album within their discography. “Disintegration” goes back to the goth rock sound that became more frequent on their second album “Seventeen Seconds” (1980), third album “Faith” (1981) and their fourth album “Pornography” (1982). After that, the band would have a more pop-heavy sound, with songs like “Just Like Heaven” (1987) becoming one of their most well known.
The opening track, “Plainsong,” has this drawn-out intro, something that you will hear repeated throughout the album. Lead singer Robert Smith’s vocals blend into the instrumental perfectly. His voice echoes, and in the first sign of Smith’s voice, he sings, “I think it’s dark and it looks like rain, you said.” “Plainsong” is not your traditional song; it contains two verses and a bridge at the end. But the song being untraditional is what makes it work. It shows that The Cure is not afraid to experiment even after eight albums. “Plainsong” sets the tone for what is to come in the album.
I will admit that “Pictures of You” is a song that took me a few listens to warm up to. What kept me coming back to the tune were the lyrics. The words deal with the longing for one’s lost love, and the only reminder you have of them are the pictures, “That I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel.”
The Cure surprisingly has some very sweet love songs, which can be seen in the appropriately named “Lovesong.” For an album that can get quite dark at times, “Lovesong” is an excellent break from all of that. The song has a dream-like quality, and there is this guitar solo towards the end that just makes “Lovesong” even more perfect. The surprisingly upbeat lyrics contain a more optimistic view of love that is not found often in this album: “Whenever I’m alone with you/You make me feel like I am home again.”
There is this spareness in early Cure albums, like there is always room for more in a song. But on “Disintegration”, that is not the case; the songs are orchestral and melodramatic at times. A great example of the grandiose quality of the songs can be heard in “Last Dance.” Smith’s voice is a crucial part of the album; being melodramatic, he sings with so much force you want more of it.
From the sudden shattering of glass at the beginning to the heavy drums, the self-titled track “Disintegration” is one of the most tragic songs. Smith’s voice as the song goes on gets more desperate and angrier. In eight minutes and 20 seconds, we are listening to a relationship disintegrate in real time.
He spouts out sentences such as “But I never said I would stay to the end/I knew I would leave you with babies and everything” and “I leave you with photographs, pictures of trickery/And stains on the carpet and stains on the memory.” I find it interesting how photographs come into play in this song and in “Pictures of You.” Where in “Disintegration,” the photos Smith speaks of sound almost like he is confessing his wrongs: when he sings “pictures of trickery” he knows it is his fault the relationship has ended, but in “Pictures of You” the photographs are the last tangible reminder of the deep love he had. Smith slowly fades away in the outro as he repeats, “How the end always is.” He knows the relationship is finally over.
“Disintegration” is an album filled with despair. Smith is letting every emotion out in his songwriting. There is a rawness to the lyrics. That’s why, even after 33 years, this album still connects with listeners: because it is not afraid to explore our darker emotions.