Friday, May 21, 2010

The Cure, Disintegration (deluxe reissue)

Robert Smith's finest moment is re-released. Here's the story of my first Cure encounter.

They say the first band you fall in love with will always hold a special place in your life. In which case, for me it was The Cure.

Twenty years on, I may not be their biggest fan anymore, but the impact that discovering them had on my life is impossible to overstate.

As my teens kicked in (it was the late eighties), I didn't think I was ever going to love music. On one side there was my older sister with her pukesome, Worst-Of-The-Eighties taste (recently deemed acceptable by endemic revivalism) comprising anything from Nick Kamen (hands up if you can remember him) to Rick Astley and from Madonna to Kylie & Jason. I remember finding her music saccharine and artificial. In short, absolutely revolting.

On the other, it was the peak of hair metal bands. Some of my friends and my cousin introduced me to the world of Guns'n'Roses, Motley Crue and also Metallica and similar stuff. I found bits alright, but it pretty much got on my nerves right from the start. I just knew it wasn't for me. For a while, I seriously thought I was going to turn into them people without any specific music taste.

And then I heard The Cure, and it was love at first sight. I became obsessed with music.

Laugh if you want, but I still sometimes wonder if my teenage years and then my twenties, my preferences and my personality, would have been shaped slightly differently had my music taste taken another direction.

I just instantly took to them. The first time I heard Lullaby on the radio, I was blown away by how different it sounded. It just didn't fit in with any type of music I'd heard up to that point. It just sounded so quirky, so odd. It was repetitive but I mean good repetitive - in a haunting, mesmerising way. I remember thinking that there was no proper chorus and that each guitar clank fell exactly in line with the snare drum. And that whispering voice. Jesus, I had to find out more about them asap.

Remember there was no internet back then. Finding out about any potential new favourite band was such an intriguingly elaborate task. You'd have to find out from record shops and any snippet of second hand news you'd catch from music magazines or even word-of-mouth. Luckily I caught The Cure right at the peak of their career, so that made things a bit easier.

Other singles were very big around 1989-1990. Lovesong, Pictures of You, Fascination Street. Those days you'd find The Cure on Top of The Pops and generally everywhere.

I loved the way the singer looked, and the rest of the band as well. The weird shirts, the nest-like hair, the smeared lipstick, the paleness. And the bass player looked so cool, I thought.

I also adored the sleeve. I'm pretty sure I was able to stare at the cover of Disintegration for something like an hour and ogle at the pictures and the typeface like a total ejit and just think of nothing. To me, The Cure had created a universe of their own, and I was applying to be part of it.

I quickly discovered that their new album Disintegration (like its follow-up Wish) was being acclaimed around the world and that they had an incredibly devoted fanbase, many of which would model their look after the band.

I also discovered that, buried under her sea of compilation tapes, my sister owned a dusty, handmade Cure Best Of, courtesy of one of her schoolmates who'd taped it for her. She didn't like it, so I snitched it straightaway. It was a precious window to their back catalogue. Amongst others, I heard A Forest and Inbetween Days. That was it. I instantly knew from that point that my pocket money was slowly going to finance Robert Smith's pension fund (though of course these specific words didn't cross my mind back then).

But, of course, I'm diverging.

I wonder how many tens of thousands of teenagers around the world had their lives suddenly lit up by Disintegration. I know there's a lot out there. Most Cure fans would tell you it's by far their best record ever.

Yet it's such a morose record that it's difficult to believe, at first. But it's precisely the intensity and the ernestness that both strike you. I'm sure I'm not wide of the mark if I say that Disintegration is possibly the most commercially successful sad record ever produced.

If you think the singles are quite dark already, try the album in full with its elegant layers and its gently resigned, dark tones. It grabs you right from the start, the windchimes gently heralding the epic first track Plainsong. And then there's Closedown, Prayers for Rain, Homesick, Untitled and many, many fantastic others.

Twenty years on, The Cure are now re-releasing Disintegration. The album comes with two extra CDs, one with demo versions and previously unreleased tracks from the recording session, and the other consisting of the excellent live album Entreat, which was recorded during their 1989-90 tour and which originally came out the year after Disintegration.

Obviously we all move on in life. Also thanks to The Cure, I discovered other bands and gradually broadened my music taste. I also believe that, from the mid-1990s on (barring some exceptions), Robert Smith generally ran out of steam. Maybe it was the line-up changes. Or perhaps my taste really did take a different turn...Who knows...

What I know, however, is that now I'm going to get up and put Disintegration on and listen to it from start to finish. Twenty years on, it hasn't aged one bit.

Disintegration (Deluxe edition) is out on 24 May 2010.


Charlie said...

Great album. I'm a big fan of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me too, though I know it's not as popular as stuff like Disintegration and Pornography.

Anita said...

A fan as well. It reminds me of my goths days, Year 9. Cant believe it's 20 years already!

Mr S. Pill said...

Couldn't agree more, my GCSE English teacher gave me this on tape (also gave me Velvets & Nick Drake, I owe him a lot!) and it's been a favourite ever since. Hell, I might even crack out the eyeliner in celebration...

Spiring said...

This is, believe it or not, the album that put me off The Cure for a while. (But to be honest, that process had started already with Kiss Me.)

In 1989, I had listened to them for a couple of years; indoctrinated by friends for some time, I finally bought the just released Standing on a Beach compilation, which lead me to buying their back catalogue. I didn't fall for them completely, I loved Pornography and The Top but albums like Seventeen Seconds and Faith felt a bit... well, half-arsed compared to Pornography. Kiss Me was the first album I bought when it was released, and there was a lot there to like - but at the same time, I thought it was a bit unimaginative; most of the songs started with a long instrumental part, building up gradually, and that can be nice sometimes but not ALL the time.

When Disintegration was released, I heard the first singles and wasn't overwhelmed... too monotonous, I thought, without the heaviness of former monotonous masterpieces like Pornography. And the first time I heard the album I could hardly believe my ears. Simplistic chord progressions drawn out far too long. Only "Love song" sounded like a real song to me. Half of the others seemed OK, but in the wrong environment. How could this album receive all this praise? The Cure were not for me any more.

That was then, but this is now. I enjoy Disintegration far more nowadays. I still have problems with the beginning of the album, though, and I can fully understand what I disliked at the time: the album isn't well paced. The first three tracks sound too happy, musically. One is OK, then comes a looong "Pictures of you" in the same vein, and when it fades you eagerly hope for a sad, desperate Cure song... but get a third happy melody instead. After that, things improve, but if you're lost interest already by then, it's too late.

So, a good, slightly patchy album, really good when I'm in the mood - but a masterpiece? Hardly. It's not even in the Cure Top 3 for me. But a solid effort in its own right, and definitely worth owning.

Paul Rayson said...

Hi, apologies for the way-after-the-fact comment, but I have a good deal to say about Disintegration in my own way-after-the-fact post. Have a look if you get the chance: RaysonMusic The Bono post is about as political as my blog gets so far, but it's refreshing to read yours. Plus I'm from Birmingham! Chelmsley Wood. OK, I'm rambling too much.