Nearly six months ago, Disintegration, the eighth album by the English rock group, The Cure, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. Originally released in 1989, the album is considered to be a return to the group's darker and murkier sound, in contrast to the previously released Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me in 1987, which featured a more pop influenced sound.
Frontman Robert Smith celebrated his thirtieth birthday in 1989, a sentiment and idea he was uncomfortable with. Smith had an internal belief that rock and roll masterworks were typically created well before the age of thirty. As a result, he began using LSD again to cope with his depression, a drug he had previously used during the recording sessions of the group's 1982 release Pornography. The aforementioned album is considered to be one of the forerunners of the gothic rock genre, with grinding guitars, sparse drums, and tortured vocals from Smith himself.
Additionally, Robert Smith felt a tremendous amount of pressure to create a follow-up record that would emulate The Cure's newfound success, even though he actively despised the band’s mainstream status, as it caused him a great deal of discomfort as a person who was often caught in the public eye. The band’s label at the time, Elektra Records, was uneasy about the change in style, as they feared it would affect sales of the album. As a result, they requested that Smith delay the release date several times. He later recalled, “Ever since then I realised that record companies don't have a f**king clue what The Cure does and what The Cure means” (Apter 2005)
The sound of Disintegration is decidedly more somber then The Cure's previous studio efforts in both mood and lyrics. Surprisingly, the album would become the band's biggest commercial success, and would produce a number of the band's most recognizable songs including "Lovesong," "Lullaby," and "Pictures of You." It was also critically acclaimed, and is retrospectively considered to be one of the best albums of the late 1980s.
I chose to write about this album because not only did I find it fitting for its thirtieth anniversary, but it is also one of my favorite albums. As someone who often uses music as a coping skill, there is something incredibly soothing and warm about Robert Smith's voice, as if he is wrapping me in a warm blanket with his singing and ideas. Especially when times are hard for me, my all time favorite track from this seventy-two minute masterpiece has to be the title track. Despite being on the longish side by clocking in at nearly eight and a half minutes, the song is led with a combined drum loop and bass line that never seems to wear on the listener's patience. Unusual about the track is the decision to have the bass lead the track as opposed to the guitar, with the latter instrument being used to create atmosphere more than lead the song. A piano also gorgeously compliments the instrumentation, and it is also noteworthy that Robert Smith does not begin singing until ninety seconds into the song. Lyrically, the song contains a double meaning dealing with drug addiction and the crumbling of a relationship that was only physical from the start:
" And now that I know that I'm breaking to pieces, I'll pull out my heart and I'll feed it to anyone. I'm crying for sympathy, crocodiles cry For the love of the crowd And the three cheers from everyone"
Personally this excerpt from the song is intensely cathartic to me, as I interpret it as being told from the point of view of someone who is experiencing an internal collapse. Despite his consuming feeling of emptiness, he is forced to gain the approval of those around him, and as a result cannot properly express the anguish he is experiencing inside. In my hardest times I remember feeling this exact way, or otherwise I am able to relate to the despair shared by the narrator of the song.
I will make it no secret that my favorite records are the ones that emotionally and personally resonates with me. After all, that is what music is to me. Disintegration is a prime example of experiencing music I can listen to regardless of how I feel. Whether I am feeling down or just want to zone out from my surroundings, it's an album I love and cherish for convincing me that whatever I'm going through, I'm not alone.