After a decade, The Cure made their most accomplished album in "Disintegration", with a new-found confidence and coherence after the sprawling "Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me". Robert Smith's intense and tortured lyrics have been much imitated by gloomy teenagers (whose efforts the world can now read, thanks to the internet). His wordy streams of consciousness move through isolation, paranoia, sensuality and most of all fragility, and are executed with music of great substance. At its heart is a set of brooding laments, orchestrated with a wash of keyboard-strings, webs of glittering guitars, including that distinctive 6-string bass.
It's dotted with some perfect pop songs. "Lullaby", the most well known of these, is as goth as any Tim Burton movie. It has such a strong reverberating guitar theme that Smith only needs to half-whisper his hammily creepy words on top. But more beautiful still is "Lovesong". Smith sings "you make me feel like I am whole again" with such desperation that you sense that his fragile confidence can't last long. It's a perfect three minute song, built from a succession of inspired musical ideas - as each theme is added the song gets richer and richer. These two tend to overshadow "Pictures of You", which might have been the stand-out song on one of their lesser albums.
The darker side of the album starts as it means to go on with the grandiose "Plainsong". This has a spacious orchestration and Smith's singing is mushed up with echo. These reach a peak of intensity with the swirling, psychedelic rock of "Fascination Street" Some might say it gets bogged down with the slow, sticky 8 minute "The Same Deep Water as You" and the drawn-out diatribe of "Disintegration", that it's too gloopy and overdone. But for me, to say it all sounds the same would be to miss the point. This monumental album is music to luxuriate in, to get lost in.
May 17, 2004