When Love Breaks Down
To criticise any record by a group you adore you have to sit back a little, and take it nice and slowly, Above all you have to be calm. I didn’t feel calm after my first night long vigil In front of the speakers listening to Disintegration and I still don’t. I’d thought that – whatever happened, whatever disintegrated – I could handle it. That my ‘core-and-all’ devouring of post Cure albums, plus the indecent, whispering taster of Lullaby had adequately primed me for what was to come.
Now I wonder if anything could have prepared me for Disintegration. Despite my best efforts to stand back, sprout a pair of bookish eyebrows, sneer occasionally and above all resist, I still emerged from the third play with the countenance of one who pays no real attention when the dentist purrs: ‘This will hurt’, discovering only much, much later why they’ve been strapped to the walls of a sound-proofed cell.
A concept album only in the barest, starkest, broadest possible sense – the disintegration one finds oneself gaping at with an ambulance chaser’s enthusiasm is – quite naturally for a Cure album – that of Robert Smith’s own relationships.
A disintegration, furthermore that comes across to the outsider as so complete, so painful, so ignobling, one Is left fearing f or Smith’s present state of mind. Surely a psyche shattered this profoundly could only resume play as a mosaic.
The tunes are called – and changed often – by all of The Cure but from the first track Plainsong, a swaying, slow narrative, paralysing the listener with sex-poison, to Disintegration‘s lost Untitled Smith’s lyrical agony of indecision is remorseless,
His quandary is nothing if not universal, that of a Mr. Heterosexual ‘I’m only human’ Average Bloke who though already beautifully comfortable and sinking still deeper into a long term relationship, still toys with the Idea of Ms Casual Sex as she draws on her long, black gloves, teases, claws and eventually blinds to reason his groping Inward eye
In Prayers For Rain Smith’s voice is reduced almost to a crooked, shame-faced whisper as his frustration and bad humour spill out In lyrics like. You shatter me, your grip on me, so dull, it kills and later Your hands on me, a touch so plain, so stale it kills . . All over a backing track too lilting and breathless to be in any way obtrusive.
The impression is irresistably that of Smith bored shitless with the diamond he has got, seeking diamante elsewhere, A totally human, ultimately understandable and – in Smith’s case at least vastly damaging reaction. In the next track – one of the album’s best The Same Deep Water As You Smith is admitting that he is not up to ‘her’ depth of emotion and loyalty.
The album continually – in feel if not in melody – reminds the ardent Cure fan of Faith , but never so much as here where the tune- devoutly reminiscent of All Cats Are Grey – gives the Illusion that you’ve just spent the last five minutes floating In the salty, warm, calming waters of The Dead Sea.
Disintegration monitors Smith’s ever-evolving plethora of emotions as they transform from deep, loving pink to an ugly violent maroon and almost back again. Yet It still remains a sharply humorous exercise, as is seen by Lullaby – a song so sexy it will one day be stripped to – and Fascination St where Smith tells his companion to pull on your hair, just pull on your pout…let’s hit opening time on Fascination St…
Observing Smith’s face as It pears up at me from the musky, floral depths of the album cover, his mouth the usual scarlet canoe, his pale face shimmering, I pay silent tribute to the only man I know whose looks are such indelible proof of a real and elegant madness.
On Disintegration‘s inside sleeve Iies the legend This music has been mixed to be played loud, so turn it up and when you do the overall sensation is somewhat scary. The emotions and insights being so raw.
Disintegration remains a mindblowing and stunningly complete album without the two extra tracks – Homesick and Last Dance available on the CD and Cassette, (Both are worryingly superfluous so don’t be conned). Revel Instead in the sure knowledge that- after the rather exasperating over experimentation of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Disintegration shows that The Cure are back on thrillingly miserable form. The fun is in how you choose to pick up the pieces.
May 6, 1989
© New Musical Express