The Cure: Disintegration

May 2, 1982 – The Cure: Disintegration is released in the US (May 1 in the UK).

# allmusic 4.5/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Disintegration is the eighth studio album by The Cure, released on this date in May, 1989 by Elektra Records in the US. In spite of Fiction’s (their UK label) fears that the album would be “commercial suicide”, Disintegration became the band’s commercial peak. It charted at number three in the United Kingdom and at number twelve in the United States, and produced several hit singles including “Lovesong”, which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Disintegration remains The Cure’s highest selling record to date, with more than three million copies sold worldwide. Disintegration was also a critical success, eventually being placed at number 326 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called it the “culmination of all the musical directions The Cure were pursuing over the course of the ’80s.”
The record marks a return to the introspective and gloomy gothic rock style the band had established in the early 1980s. As he neared the age of thirty, vocalist and guitarist Robert Smith had felt an increased pressure to follow up on the group’s pop successes with a more enduring work. This, coupled with a distaste for the group’s new-found popularity, caused Smith to lapse back into the use of hallucinogenic drugs, the effects of which had a strong influence on the production of the album. The Cure recorded Disintegration at Hookend Recording Studios in Checkendon, Oxfordshire, with co-producer David M. Allen from late 1988 to early 1989. During production, founding member Lol Tolhurst was fired from the band.
The Cure’s early-Eighties albums Faith and Pornography firmly cemented leader Robert Smith’s reputation as rock’s premier prophet of gloom: Pornography began with the line “Doesn’t matter if we all die.” The first line of Disintegration – “I think it’s dark and it looks like rain” – isn’t quite as dire, but it is emblematic of the fact that while Disintegration doesn’t break new ground for the band, it successfully refines what the Cure does best. Even if his work no longer packs the shock value it once did, Smith has finally gotten things unequivocally, utterly and completely right.
The Cure’s previous album, the breakthrough Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, was a jaunty, genre-hopping overview of the band’s career; this follow-up is a bleak meditation containing few obvious singles. Every song is in a minor key, and cold, dark and drowning images pervade the lyrics.
In Smith’s world, even good relationships are shot through with morbid overtones, and failed ones are the end of the world; he treats both with the same resigned melancholy. Not coincidentally, the most upbeat song is also the shortest, and even then, “Lovesong” describes an only temporary respite from misery – “Whenever I’m alone with you/ You make me feel like I’m fun again,” Smith warbles. A bit of black humor passes for comic relief. The ironically titled “Lullaby” is a nifty reversal of the Who’s “Boris the Spider.” Leisurely and monumental, these songs glide by like ocean liners. Typically, many bars go by before the vocal comes in on top of a tide of droning lead bass lines and cunningly layered synths. Slow tempos drive serenely through the gaping spaces in the music – self-pity never sounded so good. A liner note tells the listener, “This music has been mixed to be played loud so turn it up.” At low volume, the record’s subtleties could blend into the woodwork; at high volume you’re helplessly drawn in.
Many tracks are more than six minutes long, slow and attenuated, as if they were disintegrated pop tunes, right down to the way the rain on the nine-minute “Same Deep Water As You” slowly sizzles away, the way the cymbals on the majestic “Plainsong” sound like glass breaking in slow motion. And Smith abandons his trademark hurt-puppy-dog vocals and delivers his most inspired singing ever on the title track, about the way unfaithfulness dissolves a long-term relationship.
Despite the title, Disintegration hangs together beautifully, creating and sustaining a mood of thoroughly self-absorbed gloom. If, as Smith has hinted, the Cure itself is about to disintegrate, this is a worthy summation. (RS 556-557)
~ MICHAEL AZERRAD (July 13, 1989)
All lyrics by Robert Smith, all music by The Cure (Smith/Gallup/O’Donnell/Thompson/Williams).
“Plainsong” – 5:12
“Pictures of You” – 7:24
“Closedown” – 4:16
“Lovesong” – 3:29
“Last Dance” – 4:42
“Lullaby” – 4:08
“Fascination Street” – 5:16
“Prayers for Rain” – 6:05
“The Same Deep Water as You” – 9:19
“Disintegration” – 8:18
“Homesick” – 7:06
“Untitled” – 6:30
Original copies of Disintegration listed “Last Dance” and “Homesick” as bonus tracks, as they were not included on the original vinyl issue of the album.
2010 deluxe edition disc two: Rarities 1988–1989
“Prayers for Rain” – Robert Smith home demo (Instrumental) – 4/88
“Pictures of You” – Robert Smith home demo (Instrumental) – 4/88
“Fascination Street” – Robert Smith home demo (Instrumental) – 4/88
“Homesick” – Band rehearsal (Instrumental) – 6/88
“Fear of Ghosts” – Band rehearsal (Instrumental) – 6/88
“Noheart” – Band rehearsal (Instrumental) – 6/88
“Esten” – Band demo (Instrumental) – 9/88
“Closedown” – Band demo (Instrumental) – 9/88
“Lovesong” – Band demo (Instrumental) – 9/88
“2Late” (alternate version) – Band demo (Instrumental) – 9/88
“The Same Deep Water as You” – Band demo (Instrumental) – 9/88
“Disintegration” – Band demo (Instrumental) – 9/88
“Untitled” (alternate version) – Studio rough (Instrumental) – 11/88
“Babble” (alternate version) – Studio rough (Instrumental) – 11/88
“Plainsong” – Studio rough (Guide vocal) – 11/88
“Last Dance” – Studio rough (Guide vocal) – 11/88
“Lullaby” – Studio rough (Guide vocal) – 11/88
“Out of Mind” – Studio rough (Guide vocal) – 11/88
“Delirious Night” – Rough mix (vocal) – 12/88
“Pirate Ships” (Robert Smith solo) – Rough mix (vocal) – 12/89
Disc three: Entreat Plus: Live at Wembley 1989
“Pictures of You”
“Last Dance”
“Fascination Street”
“Prayers for Rain”
“The Same Deep Water as You”


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