25. The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
There are certain albums that can only be fully appreciated at certain times of the year. Veedon Fleece by Van Morrison, for example, should ideally be listened to on a warm summers evening when it’s still light at nine o’clock while you’re sat in a garden taking it easy; Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter is the perfect autumn album, and Radiator by the Super Furry Animals is best heard on the “Sunny days in January” that they sing about on Demons. Going on this premise, Disintegration by The Cure must never be played any other time than in the cold, dark depths of winter.
The opener, Plainsong, is so slow and monolithic it would be perfectly suited to accompany footage of a huge iceberg moving across an arctic seascape. It takes two and a half minutes of enormous, crystalline synths and drums that sound like they’ve been recorded in an aircraft hangar before Robert Smith starts singing, and by then you’ve already been swallowed up. The sound of this whole album is one of a glacial, submerging darkness. In contrast to the earlier Cure albums, such as Seventeen Seconds and Pornography, where the darkness was expressed through aggressive, pounding ugliness, here the introspection is transcendent and in places even beautiful.
In many ways it is an album that is enhanced by its narrative; the first three tracks are relatively optimistic, the afore-mentioned Plainsong is, in my opinion, The Cure’s best ever song, then comes the shimmering embrace of Pictures Of You, followed by the snowy rhythms of Closedown. It is as good an opening trinity as you’ll ever hear; Smith has arrived as an expressive and emotive guitarist, and Simon Gallup proves himself as Peter Hook’s only serious rival in the age of post-punk bassists.
The singles are the ones that everyone is familiar with, obviously, and they come next. Not here the kohl-eyed pop of The Love Cats or Boys Don’t Cry, but the bare wires of Love Song, the song that Smith allegedly wrote as a present to his wife. Then the most familiar song on this album, Lullaby; a genuinely creepy piece of music about Smith’s childhood arachnophobia, made forever famous by its cartoon-goth video in which Smith, in his classic massive back-comb and lipstick phase, gets eaten by his own bed.
Eventually, after more distortion and chugging bass, we arrive at the album’s nine-minute centrepiece, The Same Deep Water As You, which could well be the most bleakly intoxicating song ever written. It evokes the experience of having an irresolvable argument with one’s lover, in a freezing rain storm, when your eyes are turning pink from lack of sleep, and by now in the narrative all hope is truly lost.
Disintegration’s sleeve depicts Robert Smith drowning in a swirl of blue, green and black. That’s what this album is like.
Best Tracks: Plainsong, Closedown, Same Deep Water As You
Best Moment: 0:23 into the first track, a tinkle of wind chimes, a ride cymbal rustle, and then you get consumed by a song.
Like this? Try: Without You I’m Nothing by Placebo (1998)
Allen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 20 month-old daughter who is into The Ramones. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written by someone from Hull. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx