Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Requiem For The 80s: The Cure's Disintegration [reissue]

The opening track of 1989's hallowed Disintegration, "Plainsong" is a stately dirge that makes you feel like you're entering a cathedral. Of course, it's a gothic cathedral. But instead of a vicar in vestments, the celebrant is Robert Smith, with his ratty hair and eternally smudged lipstick, and the next seventy minutes is a high mass, a wedding and a funeral, the Cure's biggest album and their most stylistically uniform piece. It has some light touches (e.g., the delicate and weird "Lullaby", the sad love song "Lovesong"), but overall, Smith's gloomiest church is drenched in echoing organs and always-flanged guitars. Disintegration is not my favorite Cure album (I prefer the wild variety and more adventurous music of Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me), but holy shit, if you were a teenager in the 80s (or, if you were ever a teenager), then this album's overwhelming mope captures, more than almost any album I can think of, the helpless unrequited yearning of young angst. The religious devotion with which this album is adored by fans was perhaps already implicit when it was released: the 1989 tour was called The Prayer Tour. I dread listening to it, almost, since it summons a time and place, an age, of existential sadness; "Pictures Of You" had me crying in my car yesterday.

This reissue sounds pretty good, though the new mastering doesn't reveal any major surprises. The bonus material ranges from good to excellent; I particular enjoy the live disc (from 1989 gigs) which redoes the whole album in order in versions similar to the album versions but still interesting, as Smith's vocals are well recorded. The demos and outtakes are almost all instrumental, but if you're a Cure fan(atic), you can maintain the mood for an extra hour plus. There must be much more in the vaults, as the Cure's website recently posted another whole disc's worth of outtakes annoyingly not on this reissue, called Alternative Rarities, which is easy enough to find if you are so inclined.

Two quibbles: first, the liner notes are a bit skimpy, as they have been during this whole reissue campaign, AND ARE PRINTED IN ALL-CAPS, WHICH IS SUPER ANNOYING (doesn't Johnny Black know that sensitive Cure fans don't like being yelled at??); second, even though the Join The Dots box collected all of the band's b-sides (a majority of which are quite good), in my opinion expanded reissues should include all contemporaneous material, and songs like the beautiful "To The Sky", "Babble", "Out Of Mind", "2 Late" and "Fear Of Ghosts" belong here.

Here's "2 Late", which would have been out of place on Disintegration (too chipper), but remains one of my favorite Cure b-sides:

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