My favorite 100 albums of all time: #4 ("Disintegration")
Some of the singles off Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me were too good to ignore, but I wasn't a big fan of Robert Smith's voice initially. And then Disintegration came out, with "Fascination Street" released as the first U.S. single. I was hooked, no two ways about it.
Where Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was warm and open, Disintegration is the album that launched a thousand Shoegazer bands. "Plainsong" opens the album with a slow, majestic swell of synthesizers and drums. It's almost funereal, but also entrancing. It's about two and half minutes into "Plainsong" before Smith's vocals begin, and he's talking softly and calmly.
It's sort of as if The Cure are melding the sound they developed on Kiss Me with the colder sound of Pornography, and it's gorgeous.
"Pictures of You" has a similar guitar tone to "Just Like Heaven," but at half speed and with layers upon layers of synths behind them. Again, Smith is subdued, a little anguished. Even in a goth-y break-up song, Smith can't resist a good pop hook with a quietly sung "do-do do-doo do do."
"Closedown" starts off with a majestic rolling bass riff, distant thunder drums, and more walls of synths. These are great towering structures of song, or like drifting out to sea on a gentle wind into a distant storm. Smith is feeling his age here, which is kind of funny when you consider he was roughly 30 when Disintegration was released in 1989. Love the slow-motion guitar work here.
We get a bit more upbeat with "Lovesong." A great melody and almost energetic. Smith professes his love as only a goth rock god can.
I like to imagine misguided parents playing "Lullaby" for young children and just permanently warping their little brains. The off-kilter melody and tick-tock beat signifying the approaching of the spider man who's "having you for dinner tonight." In all its minor-key glory, I love this song as sort of a counter-point to The Who's "Boris the Spider." For bonus points, play the video for the song for your youngsters before sending them off to bed.
And then, "Fascination Street." It's simple, but the bass riff on this one grabs me every time. Again, The Cure builds layer after layer before bringing in the vocals. The guitar on this is understated but fierce. If you see it live, though, they really open it up. Smith's vocals are impassioned and he sounds like he's trying to hold back … until he doesn't. The interplay between synths and guitar here is just gorgeous. The guitar is a few layers down in the mix, though, so it has a bit of a distant air about it. For bonus points, if you can't get enough, look up the longer remix.
Did I mention the glacial pace yet? "The Same Deep Water As You" has a haunting and ethereal layer of keyboards over a steady bass thrum, and slow, deliberate guitar. At more than nine minutes, at no point does it get boring.
"Disintegration" picks up the pace. Again, this sort of reminds me a bit of a mixture of Pornography and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Listening to this one, you could easily believe that Smith planned this to be The Cure's last album – and perhaps he did, at one point. Good thing he got over that.
Disintegration is as close as you can get to a perfect album. It's a lush, dense work with standout work by the entire band. If you've never listened to The Cure, or have only heard a few singles here and there, you should make a date with this album right away.