A Track-by-Track Look Back on The Cure’s Disintegration

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By Faith Vara
Music Journalist

Artist: The Cure
Album: Disintegration
Release Date: May 2, 1989

This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Cure’s eighth studio album, Disintegration. Released in 1989, Disintegration helped The Cure stray away from their pop icon status that had been established through their previous work Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me in 1988. Despite the universal success and a no. 35 spot on the Billboard 200, lead singer, Robert Smith, vowed to create a musical masterpiece by the age of 30. And at the age of 29, he released arguably one of the greatest records of the 80s.

The beginning track, “Plainsong,” begins with about 20 seconds of wind chimes when suddenly, the band explodes onto the track with layers of slow moving synths and even slower bass, eventually adding a dreamy and melodic guitar line. While the entire first half of the track is purely instrumental, the second half tells a short story of someone who compares the cold weather to the feeling of death and complains about getting old. Suddenly you’re now inside Smith’s gloomy and atmospheric world, and he is ready to take you on a journey.

The following track, “Pictures of You,” touches on the feelings of love and a longing for something you once had. Smith had written the song after a fire broke out at his house and found pictures of his wife, Mary Poole, under all the damage. While maintaining the dream-like atmosphere that was set up in the opening track, Smith manages to share his feelings of nostalgia in the most somber, yet beautiful way. The two-minute intro filled with a hypnotic bassline and addictive guitar riffs is enough to get listener hooked right from the start.

The third track on the album titled “Closedown” covers the topics of anxiety and the fear of running out of time. As another song with a pretty lengthy intro, “Closedown” shows that The Cure is a pro when it comes to instrumentals. Their use of jarring basslines, timeless guitar riffs and captivating synthesizers will surely lock in the attention of the listener, just like it does in this track.

“Lovesong,” the fourth track on the album, is The Cure’s highest charting song in the U.S. and it’s very evident why. This track, compared to most of the album, is faster and more on the “pop” side of things. Written as a wedding present for his wife, Smith had no expectations of it doing as well as it did. Throughout the track, Smith promises to keep loving her, yet it’s not in the typical cheesy “love song” kind of way; instead it’s more of a hauntingly dignified commitment to his wife, contrary to the last track, “Last Dance,” which talks about the experience of coming in contact with a person who you once had strong feelings for, but no longer do. The heavy-hearted lyrics and ambient guitar sounds throughout the track brings the album back to its gloomy and melancholy roots that are presented in most of the album.

As a bit of an oddball compared to the rest of the album, “Lullaby” tells the story of a “spiderman” who eats children. Inspired by Smith’s uncle who used to tell him scary stories, this track becomes borderline frightening at times, making you think of all the nightmares you once had as a child. Musically, this track is my personal favorite thanks to the meaty bassline, punchy snare drum and catchy synths that weave in and out of the song. Not to mention Smith’s vocals that are pretty much whispered throughout the entire track. I highly recommend checking out the music video, as it makes the song that much creepier. “Fascination Street” is the albums seventh track and it starts with a throbbing bassline that is soon complimented by psychedelic guitar noise. One could say that this track is almost like the second half of “Lullaby” in the sense that it has a similar style, chord structure and tempo. However, the vocal delivery and melody are definitely more forthright and energetic, making this a much more danceable song.

The eighth track, “Prayers for Rain,” takes us back to the depressiveness and hopelessness that was felt in the beginning of the album. As one of the darkest songs on this project, Smith’s vocal delivery mixed with heavy drums and slow guitar progressions helps evoke a feeling of depression and misery. The ninth and longest track on the album, clocking in at just over nine minutes long, is “The Same Deep Water As You.” Following “Prayers for Rain,” the song begins with the sound of rain and thunder that continues throughout the background of the entire song. Although this track lacks much variation musically, the lyrics are what really makes this song special. Following the theme of hopelessness, Smith tells the story of a person who continues to fall in love despite knowing that the relationship is hopelessly bound to fail.

The title track, “Disintegration,” speeds up the pace of the album one last time. As the second longest song on the album, Smith has no problem talking about everything and anything. The upbeat tempo gives the illusion of happiness and hopefulness, yet the lyrics manage to take away all those feelings of positivity. Drug addiction, treachery, and despair are just a few topics covered in this track, which can almost be seen as Smith’s reflection of his own life. “Homesick,” much like many other songs on the album, begins with a long intro filled with beautiful yet haunting sounds. However, the presence of the piano makes this track so special. This simple yet heartbreaking addition mixed with a saddened guitar solo makes Smith’s desire for love much more painful to hear compared to the rest of the album. The twelfth and final track ends on a bit of an ironic note. “Untitled” is a song that Smith called ”a hopeful song in a hopeless world,” departing from the common theme of hopelessness we saw throughout the album. With minimal lyrics, we’re left not really knowing what to think, which might even be why the track is named “Untitled.”

In the liner notes of the album it says, “This music has been made to play loud, so turn it up.” This is definitely not an understatement. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the masterpiece that is Disintegration.

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