Disintegration (Deluxe Edition)
By Al Kaufman
By the time The Cure released Disintegration in 1989, they were bonafide superstars. Their 1987 release, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, led by the singles “Just Like Heaven” and “Why Can’t I Be You,” propelled them from the favorite band of the lost and disenfranchised youth to a band your younger, Cyndi Lauper-loving, sister might enjoy. All of a sudden they were a pop band. The Cure built on that success with Disintegration. “Pictures of You,” “Lovesong” and “Fascination Street” all scored major radio airplay, and the band went on to tour stadiums before self-destructing and, like almost every ’80s band, reuniting every once in a while with different lineups and lesser success.
If Disintegration can be considered the Cure’s swansong (they have since released four albums of new, spotty material), then it should also be considered the album in which Robert Smith and the boys grew up. Listening to this album 21 years later is not an embarrassing act. While Pornography may be considered by many to be the Cure’s high water mark, it does not hold up as well over time. Songs geared for black mascara wearing youths sound silly to those same people after they have grown up and joined the establishment. But Disintegration sounds like an album made by adults, for adults. Yes, there is still angst and inner-turmoil, but what adult does not have that? With its textured, swirling melodies and mood-setting instrumental openings, the album sounds richer and more expressive than previous outings without all the teenage whining and self-loathing. In fact, the album is so rich that the record company wanted them to go back and remix it, worried that the lengthy intro and overall downbeat nature would scare off radio executives looking for a hit. Thankfully, the Cure had enough clout at the time to stick to their guns and prove their record company wrong.
For the album’s 21st birthday, Rhino has created a three-disc deluxe edition. The first disc is simply the original album remastered. Disc two, the rarities disc, is mostly a bunch of instrumental demos of the songs from the album (and a few that didn’t make the cut). They may be good for someone who wants to take out the goth make-up and do some karaoke, but for anyone else, there is not much there; the sole exception being Smith’s cover of Wendy Waldman’s “Pirate Ships” (made famous by Judy Collins). Smith, without any studio tinkering, has never sounded so raw and fractured.
The third disc consists of live versions of all 12 songs from Disintegration. Eight of these were on the previously released live CD, Entreat. The live versions demonstrate that the Cure were more than just studio wizardry. They could play , and they could play with passion. While many live CDs either sound too close to the original studio recordings, or veer way to far off into left field, the Cure walk a nice balance. They sound live without falling prey to grandiose solos or tangents.
The accompanying booklet tells a nice little story of the making of the CD. But alas, the story is too short. More detail could have been given regarding the demise of drummer/keyboardist Lol Tolhurst, whose drug addictions caused him to leave the band after the release of the CD. More about how the success led to the band’s destruction would have added some meat to the otherwise surprisingly light story. But little details, such as how Robert and the band saved the lyrics to the album’s songs after the house they were staying in went up in flames, much like the band did after the success of Disintegration, bring a sort of human quality to Smith, who always seemed like a caricature for lonely and alienated youth.
Disintegration is a nice trip down memory lane, but it’s also just a damn fine album.