Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Cure-Disintegration (Deluxe Edition)

Originally Written and Posted at on 6/7/10 w/ Extensive Revisions & Additional Content.

Since their emergence into the music scene in 1979, the Cure has become of the predominant bands of the 1980s from a young post-punk trio to a Goth-based rock band. 1982’s Pornography saw the band peaked musically and creatively though the nihilistic extremes the album had on the band forced its leader Robert Smith to make some musical changes. Dabbling into new wave and pop, the Cure re-invented themselves through line-up changes as a Goth-pop outfit that was becoming a big commercial force with 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and the single Just Like Heaven. Despite the burgeoning success the band had attained, Smith was becoming uncomfortable by the attention he gained as he sought for the band to return to its dark, Gothic roots.

In what would become the second part of a trilogy of albums that preceded with 1982’s Pornography and culminated with 2000’s Bloodflowers. Disintegration would be the album that would put the Cure at the peak of their career musically, professionally, and commercially. Yet, making the album proved to be very difficult as Smith was coping with depression and the realization that he would turn 30. With Smith and the band, that consisted of guitarist Porl Thompson, bassist Simon Gallup, drummer Boris Williams, and keyboardist Lol Tolhurst, worked on the album that included new keyboardist Roger O’Donnell who joined the band during the Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me tour.

One of the problems the band was facing during the recording was Lol Tolhurst, whose alcoholism was causing problems. Tolhurst, who had been a founding member of the band, was starting to contribute less during the making of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me as his performance live was also becoming problematic. O’Donnell was asked to help fill in for Tolhurst during that tour as his contributions to the recording of the new album made him a full-time member. Smith eventually decided to fire Tolhurst from the band as recording resumed with longtime producer David M. Allen as they created what would be considered the band’s best album.

Written and performed by the Cure with production by Robert Smith and David M. Allen, Disintegration is an evocative yet hypnotic album that has the Cure returning to their early Goth period of the early 1980s. With a much broader production and more layering into the instrumentation, the album also serves as the culmination of everything the Cure had done in the preceding years. With much darker themes explored along with richer textures in the guitars and synthesizers, the result would be one of the defining albums of the 1980s.

Opening the album with low-key keyboard chimes is Plainsong that is followed by Roger O’Donnell’s wailing synthesizers and a slow, steady drum fill from Boris Williams for its down-tempo rhythm. Featuring a lush guitar flourish from Porl Thompson and Robert Smith, Smith then sings quietly to the song’s lyrics of despair that is rich with its dark imagery. Pictures of You is an up-tempo track with driving guitar melodies and Simon Gallup’s sturdy bass line to the song’s bopping rhythm and swooning keyboards. After a brief instrumental interlude, Smith starts to sing in a calm yet heartbreaking vocal style to evocative lyrics of longing as it features a gorgeous, arpeggio-laden guitar solo in the middle of the song. Closedown is a throbbing, down-tempo track led by Gallup’s smooth, pummeling bass and pounding beats with wavy keyboards and somber guitar. Smith sings to the song’s numbing lyrics as he’s desperate for some hope.

Lovesong is a mid-tempo love song that is led by a soft organ piece to a slow, steady rhythm and ringing guitars as Smith sings the song’s lyrics that is more direct in Smith’s delivery. Featuring lush string arrangements and piano flourishes, it is a song that is a bit dark but definitely one of the best love songs of the 1980s. Last Dance opens with Gallup’s pummeling bass line with Williams’ throbbing yet hollow beats as it’s followed by waves of heavy synthesizers and eerie guitar textures. Smith sings ethereal lyrics filled with themes about last moments as he asks for one last dance. Lullaby is a ballad with mid-tempo rhythms filled with lush synthesized-strings, soft beats, and melodic guitars. With Smith singing nightmarish lyrics, the song is filled wonderful imagery that includes spiders as it’s one of the band’s definitive singles.

Another single comes in the form of the intoxicating Fascination Street with its mesh of blaring guitars and Gallup’s thundering bass lines that is followed by walloping beats and flourishing keyboards. Smith’s somber vocals play through the song’s despairing lyrics as Smith adds a bit of a snarl to the song’s chorus. Prayers for Rain is a mesmerizing ballad filled with heavy yet swooning synthesizers, down-tempo rhythms, and rich, arpeggio-laden guitar. With David M. Allen’s exotic production, the song is one of the key album tracks that includes Smith’s haunting vocals as he sings the song’s morose lyrics. The Same Deep Water As You is another ballad that features sounds of thunderstorms awash with the song’s smooth, down-tempo rhythm that is accompanied by washy guitars and a wailing synthesizers. Smith sings in a calm tone to the song’s lyrics that is filled with deathly images as Smith longs to kiss his beloved.

The album’s title track is a driving, up-tempo track with flourishing chimes, sturdy bass lines, pummeling beats, droning guitar rings, and a melodic piano riff. With Smith taking charge with his calm vocals, he sings lyrics filled with angst and fragility as it’s one of the most exhilarating pieces on the album. The ballad Homesick is a soft piece with low-key drums, somber piano melodies, and swirling guitar textures that accompanies Smith’s quiet vocals. The lyrics contain elements of desperation as Smith is accompanied by a violin to enhance the song’s melancholia. Closing the album is the mid-tempo track Untitled with its soft yet walloping rhythm, ringing guitar, and a soft organ track to play throughout the song. Smith would later sing after a couple of minutes as the song’s lyrics contains a sense of loss with desperation and confusion as the soft organ helps close the album.

The 2010 three-disc deluxe edition of Disintegration features a wide array of material cultivated from the making of the album along with demos, rarities, and live tracks. The first disc of the deluxe edition is the original album remastered by Robert Smith. The two other discs in the deluxe edition is vast collection of material that beats all of the previous reissues of the Cure’s albums from 1979 to 1987 in terms of what is offered.

The second disc entitled Demos & Rarities 1988-1989 is a 20-track collection featuring the band recording many of the songs from the album plus rarities and a few B-sides, the latter of which appear in the Join the Dots B-sides box set. Much of the material are instrumental demos. The first three for Prayers for Rain, Pictures Of You, and Fascination Street are homemade instrumental demos made at Robert Smith’s home that feature rough versions with a drum machine. The next three tracks are band rehearsal outtakes for Homesick, the B-side Fear of Ghosts, and the rarity No Heart that features a bit of chatter as the band plays the tracks. The last of which in No Heart starts off as a rough version of Fascination Street only to turn into something slower and chilling through Simon Gallup’s bass.

The next six instrumental demos for four album cuts in Closedown, Lovesong, the album’s title track, and The Same Deep Water As You. The other to is an alternate demo for the B-side 2 Late while that section opens with an instrumental rarity for a track called Esten, which is an upbeat, swinging track led by Gallup’s sturdy bass line, Boris Williams’ steady drum fills, swirling guitars by Robert Smith and Porl Thompson, and wailing keyboard melodies from Roger O’Donnell. The demo for Lovesong is a bit faster in its rough form while the rest of the material sound similar to their finished versions. The last two instrumental outtakes are rough studio versions of the song Untitled and the B-side Babble as the former sounds closely to its final version except for sections of the bridge. The latter sounds more stripped down before getting the full mix in its final version.

The next four tracks are rough vocal versions of Plainsong, Last Dance, Lullaby, and the B-side Out Of Mind all of which have Smith singing to rough backing tracks while his vocals aren’t as strong as they appear in the final version. The last two tracks of the second disc are rarities that have never been heard of. First is a rough outtake of a track called Delirious Night that features swirling chimes from Plainsong and swooning synthesizer tracks to accompany Smith’s quiet vocals. Presented in an exotic, Indian-style track filled vibrant beats, it is one of the highlights of the second disc. The last track is a Robert Smith solo track as he covers Judy Collins’ Pirate Ships in a rough mix that has Smith singing folky lyrics to a harmonium-like keyboard that includes seagull cries in the background.

The third disc is an expanded and remixed version of the 1991 European-only live album Entreat from the band‘s concert at the Wembley Arena in July of 1989. Added to the live album are Plainsong, Lovesong, Lullaby, and The Same Deep Water As Your as they all originally appeared in the CD single version of Pictures Of You. For this remixed, expanded, and remastered version of Entreat, the live album is presented where all the songs from Disintegration are played in its entirety track by track. While a lot of the material heard live is brilliant, the mixing for the new, expanded version of the live album can be controversial for some audiophiles. Particularly the way Smith remixed some of the instrumentation as the snare drums are less louder while everything else sounds a bit more polished. Even the vocals are less louder than the original live album on some parts of the songs. Despite whatever issues some might have over Smith’s new mixing for Entreat. Entreat Plus is a still a worthy record to have as part of the deluxe version for Disintegration.

The online material from the Cure’s website for Disintegration is a 20-track collection of demos and rarities known as Alternative Rarities: 1988-1989. With a large portion of the material being more instrumental demos, rehearsals, and outtakes. The collection also includes more outtakes and live rarities all of which is nearly timed at an hour and a half. The first three tracks are instrumental home demos made by Robert Smith for Closedown, Last Dance, and Lullaby. Closedown is presented in a semi-acoustic form with a recorded bass line and keyboard in the background while the rest is more fully formed in its rough sketches. The next three are instrumental rehearsals for the B-side Babble and two previously unreleased outtakes in the funky, upbeat Tuned Out On RTV5 that included tempo changes. The second outtake is a track called FuknNotFunk that has the band playing something raucous and funky.

The next six tracks are instrumental demos for the songs Plainsong, Pictures Of You, Fascination Street, Homesick, the B-side Fear of Ghosts, and the exotic rarity Delirious Night. A lot of the material sounds like rough sketches but are presented quite wonderfully in their under-developed presentation. Notably Delirious Night in its swirling, Indian-flavored format. Even as a few of them feature drum machines in the background. An outtake in the form of the B-side Out Of Mind is presented as a studio jam with the band that also includes some studio chatter early in the performance. The next three tracks are rough studio mixes of the songs Lovesong, Prayers For Rain, and the B-side 2 Late that all sound great though not as good as the final versions they’re presented later on in the album and singles.

The last four tracks are live rarities during the Cure’s tour for Disintegration. The first three are from a show in Dallas, Texas where presented are live versions of The Same Deep Water As You, the title track, and Untitled. Unlike the live material in the Entreat Plus disc, the songs are not given any kind of remixing as they sound far more suitable in their live form. The last track of the online collection is a live recording of the song Faith from the band’s 1981 album of the same name performed at a show in Rome, Italy. Presented with a more fuller sound since it’s played by a five piece, the track has Smith snarling and screaming throughout the song in response to what was happening in China at the time. The track is a definite closer to the entire collection that is presented in this massive, deluxe edition of what is truly the band’s best album.

Released on May 1, 1989, the album drew the same kind of fears and anxiety that the band’s label had over its commercial impact like 1982’s Pornography before that. Instead, Disintegration would become the band’s most successful album of their career selling more than three million copies worldwide. The single for Lovesong became the band’s biggest hit single to date as it peaked at #2 in the U.S. Hot 100 singles charges prompting the band to play stadiums. Despite its success, Smith was becoming more uneasy by the band’s new success with some believing the Cure was on the verge of breaking up following keyboardist Roger O’Donnell’s departure in 1990. Band technician Perry Bamonte replaced O’Donnell as Smith was becoming interested in the acid-dance scene that would become the basis for the band’s 1990 remix album Mixed Up.

Disintegration is truly an intoxicating yet mystifying album from the Cure which is truly their best album. Thanks in part to the production work of Robert Smith and David M. Allen and the performances by the band, it is a record that really shows the Cure at their peak. It is an album that is among one of the best records ever made though its dark subject matter does make the record one of the most depressing albums ever. Yet, it’s the kind of record that on a damp, rainy day that is perfect to listen to in terms of mood and sound. In the end, Disintegration is a phenomenal album from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

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