THE CURE "Disintegration." (****)
Disintegration?Isn't that what happens to rock bands who've been around as
long as the Cure?The title turns out to be as ironic as a story by Saki--this
is the most confident and accomplished Cure album yet.
The reasons have nothing to do with breaking new ground--the last two
brilliant collections did the exploring."Disintegration" sifts through the
findings and synthesizes the elements that have made the English band one of
the most entrancing of the '80s:The focus of the earlier,darkness-drenched
LPs is merged with the greater musical/lyrical/mood dimensions of the later
Robert Smith's continuing fascination with love and madness no longer causes
his voice to take off like a crazed bat on every other song--only on the
desperation-haunted title song does it strain as of old.And dig the playful
new purr on "Lullaby."
The greatest thing about "Disintegration" is its sound--a gorgeous fabric of
rumbling bass,cathedral organ,swirling chimes,rain effects,Arabian Nights
rhythms,and several styles of guitar--all supporting some of Smith's most
probing and poetic lyrics yet.
You'll have to wait for those lyrics longer than ever,though:Now every song
begins with a long instrumental intro--exactly the sort of thing that
separates the Cure from even the best of more normal rock bands.Love 'em for
This new album,the Cure's first in two years,suggests they're are
shooting for the stadiums.Indeed,the word is that they'll be playing Shea
Stadium in New York later this summer.The album opens with a symphonic
fanfare designed to boggle the ear in stadiums--and much of this album aims
equally high in the orchestral,synth-laden sweepstakes.Some of it is
artfully conceived;some of it is gibberish.By and large it works,especially
Side One,where the arrangements have a majestic grandeur that soothes like
New Age new-wave rock.Softly curving guitar melodies weave around the melodic
synths of new keyboardist Robert O'Donnell,formerly of Psychedelic Furs.
Robert Smith sings sweetly of love gone sour,until he and the band rediscover
their dance-pop instincts in "Fascination Street," the album's first single.
Side Two waffles,as Smith overreaches and the band drifts into noodling,but
maybe it'll sound better in a stadium.
by Barbara Ellen
When Love Breaks Down
THE CURE Disintegration (Fiction Records LP/Cassette/CD)
TO CRITICISE any record by a group you adore you have to sit back a little, and take it nice and slowly. Above all you have to be calm. I didn't feel calm after my first night-long vigil in front of the speakers listening to 'Disintegration' and I still don't. I'd thought that - whatever happened, whatever disintegrated - I could handle it. That my 'core-and-all' devouring of past Cure albums, plus the indecent, whispering taster of 'Lullaby' had adequately primed me for what was to come.
Now I wonder if anything could have prepared me for 'Disintegration'. Despite my best efforts to stand back, sprout a pair of bookish eyebrows, sneer occasionally and above all - resist, I still emerged from the third play with the countenance of one who pays no real attention when the dentist purrs: "This will hurt", discovering only much, much later why they've been strapped to the walls of a sound-proofed cell.
A concept album only in the barest, starkest, broadest possible sense - the disintegration one finds oneself gawping at with an ambulance chaser's enthusiasm is - quite naturally for a Cure album - that of Robert Smith's own relationships.
A disintegration, furthermore, that comes across to the outsider as so complete, so painful, so ignobling, one is left fearing for Smith's present state of mind. Surely a psyche shattered this profoundly could only resume play as a mosaic.
The tunes are called - and changed often - by all of The Cure but from the first track 'Plainsong', a swaying, slow narrative, paralysing the listener with sex-poison, to 'Disintegration''s last 'Untitled' Smith's lyrical agony of indecision is remorseless.
His quandary is nothing if not universal. That of a Mr Heterosexual 'I'm only human' Average Bloke who though beautifully comfortable and sinking still deeper into a long term relationship, still toys with the idea of Ms Casual Sex as she draws on her long, black gloves, teases, claws and eventually blinds to reason his groping inward eye.
In 'Prayers For Rain' Smith's voice is reduced almost to a croaked, shame-faced whisper as his frustration and bad humour spill out in lyrics like: "You shatter me, your grip on me, so dull, it kills..." and later "Your hands on me, a touch so plain, so stale...it kills..." All over a backing track too lilting and breathless to be in any way obtrusive.
The impression is irresistably that of Smith bored shitless with the diamond he has got, seeking diamante elsewhere. A totally human, ultimately understandable and - in Smith's case at least - vastly damaging reaction. In the next track - one of the album's best - 'The Same Deep Water As You' Smith is admitting that he is not up to 'her' depth of emotion and loyalty.
The album continually - in feel if not in melody - reminds the ardent Cure fan of 'Faith', but never so much as here where the tune - devoutly reminiscent of 'All Cats Are Grey' - gives the illusion that you've just spent the last five minutes floating in the salty, warm, calming waters of The Dead Sea.
'Disintegration' monitors Smith's ever-evolving plethora of emotions as they transform from deep, loving pink to an ugly, violent maroon and almost back again. Yet it still remains a sharply humorous exercise, as is seen by 'Lullaby' - a song so sexy it will one day be stripped to - and 'Fascination St' where Smith tell his companion to 'pull on your hair, just pull on your pout...let's hit opening time on Fascination St...'
Observing Smith's face as it peers up at me from the musky, floral depths of the album cover, his mouth the usual scarlet canoe, his pale face shimmering, I pay silent tribute to the only man I know whose looks are such indelible proof of a real and elegant madness.
On 'Disintegration''s inside sleeve lies the legend 'This music has been mixed to be played loud, so turn it up' and when you do the overall sensation is somewhat scary. The emotions and insights being so raw.
'Disintegration' remains a mindblowing and stunningly complete album without the two extra tracks - 'Homesick' and 'Last Dance' available on the CD and Cassette, (Both are worryingly superfluous so don't be conned). Revel instead in the sure knowledge that - after the rather exasperating over-experimentation of 'Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me', 'Disintegration' shows that The Cure are back on thrillingly miserable form. The fun is in how you choose to pick up the pieces. (9)
Robert Smith reckons "Disintegration" isn't a miserable record at all."At
All," he says.Right.Meanwhile Van Gogh says "Starry Night" was a cartoon,
Francis Bacon claims he's a disco king,Joan of Arc announces she was only
cutting down on heating costs and Keats comes clean that his coughs were
"Disintegration" isn't the most depressing record I've heard recently.
That would be the Simple Minds album,which is depressing because it's so
terribly,terribly bad.But "Disintegration is at least as mollifying as
waking up in Rumania in winter with no clothes on.It's about as much fun
as losing a limb.It's as life-affirming as chopping down a tree and
stamping on the squirrels.It's as sobering as seeing The Cure play live,
which in recent years has become an increasingly agonising experience.
So how can a group this distressing and disturbing be so popular?Surely
it's not allowed!Don't you have to don your party hats and punch your
fist in the air (flushed with hope,positivity and other such transient
crap) to reach the masses these days?The Cure's enduring appeal is
confusing."Lullaby" is much too intricate and interesting to loll about
in the Top 5.Yet there it is.Inexplicable.Robert's not that steamily
erotic,is he?Is he?Oh.Thank you ladies.I sulk corrected.
You'll be lucky to find a tune on here.Or a gag.No love cats.Plenty of
angst slugs.The whole lazy turmoil ("lazy turmoil" is not in itself a
criticism) lasts about an hour (70 minutes on cassette or CD).But when you
think about it,that last one,that one about snogging,that was bloody long
and mostly forlorn too.The Cure have almost invisibly stopped making pop
records.This is exactly what Smith denies it is-a return to the bleak
inner landscapes of "Pornography" and "Faith".The first line? "I think
it's dark and it looks like rain." The last line? "I'll never lose this
pain." Buster Keaton eat your heart out.Here comes summer.
That's all the due warning you're getting.Enjoy."Disintegration" is a
unilateral wash of grey.Some say black is the colour which includes and
represents all others,some say white.Smith's gone for the dictatorship.
The words which lumber to mind as you hear The Cure bottling out of
topping themselves (which is what this is) are all the words now devalued
and used only to mock goths:doom,gloom,barren,despair,etc. "Disintegration"
never once leaps up and shouts "Kick it!" It's a Tarkovsky film in slow
motion with the sound off.It's an utter and complete refusal to fight,to
take the bull by the horns.It's sub or super-human in it's unfamiliarity
with willpower.It's passive,but not a resistance.Passivity can only attain
dignity by going all the way,into nihilism.Mere weariness is mere weakness.
Somehow The Cure express this vulnerability and spiritual vapidity,and
energise it with authenticity.They're the Edward Hopper or even Mark Rothko
of melancholy rock.They have nothing to say except:please help me I don't
understand a thing about the world oh actually it's not important don't
trouble yourself go back to sleep.Look in the eyes of anyone in the front
half of their audience,see if I'm not right.And it's in this way that The
Cure are definitively,perhaps irredeemably,modern,contemporary.They are
the sandmen we deserve,pitiful generation that we are.Quite why we usually
get even muter charlatans is perhaps the only mystery in the universe
I have not miraculously solved in this paragraph.Excuse me a minute I have
to get some tea.
I've just had two thoughts.One,I need a woman with great legs who can cook.
A woman with one great leg who can drink would be a start.Two,there is
little point attempting any track-by-track commentary on this album because
differentiation between individual cuts is,er,not it's strong point.Most
float sorrowfully into each other (it could be called "The Blob") as Mr.
Smith intended."Pictures of You" is as jaunty as it ever gets,"Prayers
for Rain" as aggressive,the title track as witty ("I never said I would
stay to the end,I knew I would leave you with babies and everything").
Listless rhythms and rhymes abound,glissando guitars whisper,Robert mumbles
and wonders whether he can be bothered to plead.The closer,"Untitled",
decides:"And now the time has gone,another time undone,hopelessly fighting
the devil futility,feeling the monster climb deeper inside of me gnawing
my heart away..." Pluck it out boy!This ain't no party.Smith lacks the
vengeful spirit of Travis Bickle.He mopes.He'll never send a letterbomb
when his wounds are easier to lick than an envelope.He's a touchstone for
It's only right to ask Picasso what he makes of all this."When you come
right down to it,all you have is yourself.Yourself is a sun with 1000 rays
in your belly.The rest is nothing." A fair point,Pablo,and a relevant one.
"Disintegration" is the sound of a man finding it all too much,giving in
rather gutlessly to the sheer size of the chaos.It's decent of him to share
this with us.I mean he could have written some songs or something.It's
challenging,claustrophobic and frustrating,often poignant,more often
tedious.It's very nearly surprising.
You've heard of the cowardly lion.Meet the hesitant dinosaurs.
Smash Hits (Australia) - 1989
by Diane Godley
THE CURE Disintegration (WEA)
Once again, The Cure will astound you with another wondrous album. Up to now, they've always managed to come up with a record to surprise us all with, and Disintegration is no exception. Their eleventh album to date can, however, be likened to their 1980 release Seventeen Seconds. The music takes on an eerie, melancholy sound and Robert Smith's well-known harrowing wailings are not in a hurry to go anywhere. The first single to be released from the album is Lullaby, and it definitely doesn't sound like a hit. But obviously there are still plenty of Cure fans about, as the tune catapulted into the top 40 the first week of release! This Lullaby, is definitely not to be taken as a song to put your kid sister or brother to sleep though (unless of course you want them to have nightmares) - "on candystripe legs the spiderman comes softly through the shadow of the evening....there is nothing I can do when I realise the spiderman is having me for dinner tonight". This is not the sort of album you'd play before going out raging, but I thoroughly recommend it anyway. Disintegrate and be cured!
(5 out of 5 stars)
The Face 1989
The Cure's new collection, Disintegration (Fiction) (4 stars), is less pop and more symphonic than the likes of Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, but there's a kind of crackpot grandeur at play here. Consider the tremendous Pictures Of You, for instance. Probably best enjoyed with headphones and a jug of something overpowering.
The Cure,Disintegration (****): Because of an ability to stand apart
from its peers while playing the same type of music with the same
instruments,the Cure is a rarity among the Sturm und Drang,synthesized
wanna-be's out there.Led by Robert Smith,the group doesn't even pretend to
care if its music is marketable or not.And therein lies the irony:Not caring
reveals more than any amount of preaching could.Smith's unusual phrasings and
observations of the world he is forced to inhabit give us some insight into
that tenuous state called sanity.
If given a choice,Smith would clearly rather be somewhere else,but that place
could only exist in his imagination.Luckily for us,he is eager to show off
his mental abode.
The route to his world is by way of "Fascination Street" - "Oh,it's opening
time down on Fascination Street/so let's cut the conversation and get out for
a bit/because I feel it all fading and paling/and I'm begging to drag you
down with me."
The door opens,and we are greeted by an insistent "Lullaby," horrifying yet
soothing.Smith never can let a good melody put him in a good mood.As we walk
along,the walls are covered with what Smith refers to as "Pictures of You,"
snapshots of a doomed affair that he just can't seem to put behind him:"I've
been looking so long at these pictures of you/that I almost believe that
they're real/I've been living so long with my pictures of you/that I almost
believe that the pictures are all I can feel."
Smith revels in his melancholy,so much so that he has no qualms about
spreading it around.As the mental tour continues,he sings of his pool in
terms of drowning within "The Same Deep Water as You." Porl Thompson's guitar
becomes more and more leaden as it sinks into the depths of Smith's inertia.
Comparisons of love and destruction become logical to him.One naturally
follows the other.
The result is Smith's ultimate descent into "Disintegration." All that he has
shared is no more.His mental shelter has been torn apart,and he finds that
he enjoys standing in the open,vulnerable to the elements of his making:"Now
that I know that I'm breaking to pieces/I'll pull out my heart and I'll feed
it to anyone crying for sympathy." Smith's angst turns on itself like a
The Cure is not a group that begs to be liked.But it does beg to be paid
attention to.And if Disintegration is Smith's way of exposing his soul,then
his pain is our pleasure.
Rating: *** 1/2
Robert Smith,the Cure's lead vocalist and lyricist,has made a fetish of
despair,melancholy and obsessive romance.He's eternally pining for lost love,
aching for unattainable love,or looking for a way out of existing romance,and
being depressed about that too.Add the whiny,straining voice Smith drags out
when he's really riled up,and there's ripe potential for an annoyance
quotient running off the scale.
So what makes the Cure such a compelling band,with Smith ranking among rock's
most fascinating and enigmatic figures?
On "Disintegration," Smith and the band once again prove that misery can be
rendered with eloquence and musical distinction as provocative as it is
bleak.The songs are full of Smith's anguished laments about loneliness and
alienation,but all linked by his unswerving belief in the nobility of love,no
matter how painful some of its permutations.
Love drives Smith to the brink of madness,and he's often on the verge of
falling into an abyss of disintegration.
The album's lush,languid sound-characterized by layers of electronics,the
almost-hectoring chatter of guitars and haunting rhythms seemingly out of
Africa by way of Middle Earth-is in sharp contrast to the eclectic diversity
on the Cure's last album ('87's "Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me").Its restraint
makes Smith's ominous complaints all the more harrowing,and when the
bottled-up emotion does break through in wild fits just short of hysteria
("Fascination Street" and the title cut),it has nearly the same effect as the
arrival of the creature in "Alien."
But Smith is no alien.His raw material is the same nightmares we've all had.
He may be more compulsive about it,but it's helped him produce mesmerizing