„Disintegration“: Düsteres Meisterwerk von The Cure

Der wabernde Keyboardsound erinnert zwar entfernt an den orchestralen Bombast von Vangelis („Chariots of Fire“), aber dann schält sich in „Plainsong“ vehement und unaufhörlich die Melancholie heraus.

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Von Heroik keine Spur, hier wird gelitten: Dunkel, windig und kalt ist die Welt in dem Song „Plainsong“, mit dem das Cure-Album „Disintegration“ (1989), das gerade als 3 CD Set neu aufgelegt wurde, beginnt.

Ein unaufhörlich sich träge dahinwälzender Mahlstrom der Melancholie, der Cures achtes Studioalbum zu einem düsteren Meisterwerk der Schwermut macht. Robert Smith, der zur damaligen Zeit eine schwer depressive und durch Drogen entfremdete Phase durchmachte, hat dem Album seinen dunklen Stempel aufgedrückt.

Diese schwermütige Grundstimmung traf, allen Befürchtungen der Plattenfirma zum Trotz, ganz offenbar den Nerv der Zeit. Über 3 Millionen Mal verkaufte sich „Disintegration“ und mit „Lullaby“, „Fascination Street“, „Lovesong“ und „Pictures of You“ sprangen zudem vier poppigere Hitsingles heraus, die leichter zugänglich waren in diesem Meer der Tristesse.

Bei der Deluxe-Ausgabe von „Disintegration“ dürfte neben dem remasterten Original und dem Live-Album „Entreat Plus“ vor allem die CD mit Raritäten (1988-1989) für Cure-Fans von Interesse sein, die hier eine geballte Ladung Songs in ihrer Instrumentalversion finden – alles zusammengestellt und überwacht von Robert Smith.

Beinahe hätte „Disintegration“ tatsächlich ein Instrumental-Album werden können, wenn Robert Smith nicht seine Texte gerettet hätte, die bei einem Feuer in seinem Zimmer beinahe verbrannt wären. Mit nassen Handtüchern um Kopf und Schultern stürzte er sich unter Todesgefahr in den brennenden und verrauchten Raum. Danach war er ziemlich krank, seine düsteren Texte aber voller Hoffnungslosigkeit und Verzweiflung waren sicher.

The Cure Melts Down

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Their concerts have inspired full scale riots and on stage suicide attempts. They represent a youth culture as valid as heavy metal or hip hop. They wear better make up than you. And at the height of their success, they say they that this might be the end.

When the Cure performed in Argentina and Brazil two years ago, thousands of fans who could not get tickets began rioting in the streets. The turmoil spread into the stadiums, until the military had to be called in to quell the unrest. “Bodies were carried out by the hundreds,” says leader Robert Smith, “but the survivors still chanted madly for more. The crowd surged forward and despite the high barricades and higher police, the battle began. By halfway through the set in Brazil, there were several uniformed men on fire and most people took cover from the ceaseless and merciless rain of coins, seats, stones and glass aimed at the authorities. I couldn’t wait to get away. Half the stadium was ablaze. Outside, the ground looked like downtown Beirut and at one point thought it unlikely that we’d escape unscathed.”

The Cure are the most unlikely pop band of the Eighties. With little radio play, even in England, they have collected a string of hit singles. They rarely tour the US, but last time managed to sell out Madison Square Garden. They have never espoused any political stance, yet President Mitterand recently invited them to Paris. They are, in their own words, “a willfully obscure band” that has nevertheless sold over eight million records. Now, at the height of their popularity, they are threatening to call it quits.

After thirteen years and eleven albums, the Cure have discovered immense popularity despite themselves. They just don’t belong. The band, like Robert Smith, are a mass of contradictions. He can act with the malice of the Great Dictator, yet wants to be Mary Poppins. He’s been called the last of the doomed poets, yet leads an incredibly mundane life, in which the highlights include soap operas, snooker, watching football and eating curry. He’s never believed in Santa Claus, yet still cries when Dumbo’s mother gets imprisoned.

So who the hell does Robert Smith think he is ?

“I’m not who other people think I am,” Smith says, “I’m not a miserable bastard. I’m a clown sometimes. Sometimes I’m serious. Deadly serious.”

Who does he want to be ?

“Robert Smith – the last man to pass through the star gate in ‘2001’ and the first man to arrive on the other side.”

To further confuse the issue, the singer is also a self- confessed liar. Can anybody believe what he says?

“Yes,” he says, meaning no, “I do trick people, and myself sometimes. But through experience, people that like the group know that we’re not going to let them down – for example, by doing things that are crass. As a kid, I remember liking people like David Bowie and feeling really let down when they cocked things up and did something really stupid. Even now I still feel that. I’m convinced that if your whole attitude is right then you’ll start to appeal to people on a deeper level than just musically. People now trust us.”

Like most English acts, the band formed in 1976, the same year the Sex Pistols changed modern music with the single ‘Anarchy In The UK’. Straight out of high school, they called themselves the Easy Cure, which they quickly shortened. “We arrived in an era of negatively named bands,” says Smith, “and the name The Cure was a positive statement. We wanted to provide some hope for people by seeing our name in the charts. People think, ‘if they can do it like that, with music that doesn’t conform, then we can do it like we want to’. Part of the motive in forming the band was to present an alternative. We used to go off on tour with the sole intention of upsetting as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. We’ve inspired a lot of groups that have nothing musically in common. The success of ’17 Seconds’ allowed the band to reinvest in the group, meaning they would be self-sufficient and not owe the record company money, which gives them power over you.

“The money that we’ve earned has brought us freedom. It took a long time, but now we can even support ourselves. We don’t have to pander to anyone.”

The Cure are one those precious few bands who’ve achieved their success without compromise or embarrassment, who’ve refused to conform to expectation or acquiesce to the dictates of the time. Like New Order, the band has always been in control of its record company and refuses to be led into blind alleys.

“New Order were always the most obvious parallel with us, although they do trade on their reputation a little more than we do because they’ve been blessed with legendary status through the death of Ian Curtis.

“Its a very difficult situation to get in and stay in. The Bunnymen almost did it, and the Banshees should have done it. The difference between us and these two groups is that the only thing the Cure take seriously is what’s brought out on record or when we perform for the two hours we’re on stage. Everything else is treated with a certain amount of disrespect – even each other. There’ve been several things we have done where we’ve looked ridiculous and people could’ve thought ‘Oh God, the Cure, what a desperately unhip group.’ In fact, its worked the opposite way and everyone thought, ‘How brilliant that they care so little about what they look like.’ Our videos have reinforced our appeal and meant no one could accuse us of being precious about what we look like. A group like the Banshees would find it very difficult to do anything like that.”

Tony (sic) Pope, the quixotic video director behind all the Cure videos since 1984, describes the band as the most stupid and intelligent he has ever worked with. Pope has always tried to undermine the gloomy Cure myth. For the ‘Love Cats’ video, Pope got the keys to a deserted house on the auspices of buying the place. The band began an all-nite party and shot the video when they were too drunk to care and returned the keys to the estate agent the next morning. For ‘Why Can’t I Be you’ he had Smith dressed in a polar bear suit.

“When we started doing wacky videos,” recalls Smith, “the Bunnymen and New Order saw that it didn’t do us any harm and decided to follow our lead, although they’d be reluctant to admit as much. Especially after ‘Love Cats,’ groups realized that the audience welcomed that sense of humor. We love cultivating that gloomy goth image, but it’s hard to stop smiling.”

On their last British TV appearance, three months ago, Smith arrived on stage with smudged lipstick and eye makeup that made him look like a panda. The show’s producers refused to allow the band to play until the offending powder and paste was removed. Smith wouldn’t compromise and after hours of argument, the executives finally relented. Another guest on the show, Diana Ross, was distinctly unimpressed, but The Cure had a Top 5 single and once again, the establishment was forced to swallow hard.

The Robert Smith on TV or video isn’t the real Robert Smith. We go on TV and look completely out of place and scare everyone and take the piss. Outsiders think it’s really strange, but our fans know what’s going on. It’s not pantomime. It’s not me.”

In England, these antics have made the Cure an institution, but in America, they remain an Enigma: a band that gets little radio play but managed to sell a million copies of their last album. Like Depeche Mode, who drew 68,000 people to the Pasadena Rose Bowl football stadium to celebrate publicly some very private music, the Cure and its supporters are one of America’s more obvious secrets, a youth culture as substantial and central to people’s lives as heavy metal’s or hip hop’s. They are an obsession. The last time the Cure played in San Francisco, on July 27, 1986, a member of the audience climbed up on stage and stabbed himself repeatedly in the chest. The crowd of 18,000, thinking this to be part of the enter- tainment, cheered wildly.

“We find Americans a little obsessive and sinister,” says Smith.

“In America,” Smith says, “we’re known as a wacky kind of pop band. I think that will change with the new album.”

After ‘Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me’, the album that finally broke the band in America, and that Smith now dismisses as having been “too easy to make,” Smith decided not to pursue this success. “I think that we are, in an old-fashioned sense, an album’s band, even though we’ve had a string of hit pop singles. Everyone wanted us to carry on down the road of singles like ‘Why Can’t I Be You’ and ‘Hot Hot Hot’,’ but we didn’t want to get locked into another round of Star Hits interviews and decided to something with a bit more substance.”

The result is ‘Disintegration’, which abandons the hedonism of ‘Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me’ and the fragments of dreams and ghoulish nightmares that rippled through 1985’s ‘Head On The Door’. Instead, Smith reverted back to his main themes of love, desperation, desolation and self- deprecation.

“I think it harps back to ‘Faith’ and the period of ’80 – ’81. The last album, ‘Kiss Me’, was more of a party record. Before we even started rehearsing, I had the title ‘Disintegration’ and I wanted the album’s end to convey an actual feeling of disintegration. Originally I was going to take perverse satisfaction in making a depressing album. There were these suicides in New Zealand which made the front page of the newspapers over there. These two boys had been listening to us when they killed themselves and the headline read something like ‘Gothic Cult Suicide’. We had this stuck on the wall. I know it’s tragic, but at the same time it’s grimly funny because it obviously had nothing to do with us. We were just singled out. Everyone was joking about it being suicidal music and how I upset people with the words. This album was supposed to fulfill what was expected, but it hasn’t worked out that way. They’re certainly not uplifting, but there’s a satisfaction that comes from listening to something that you know a lot’s gone into. You can tell there are people involved and that those people care. I care a lot.

“The only trouble with being that committed to the album is that I’ve taken everything to a ludicrous perfectionist point where I’m fixated by it. So much has gone into it, I just can’t let it go. I’ll be an unbearable perfectionist for a certain amount of time, then it all falls apart and I couldn’t give a shit about anything. I don’t ever seem to be able to enjoy a happy medium. I get obsessive about things, and then take a step back and realize that none of it’s important. In my scheme of things, this record means nothing to me sometimes and other times it’s the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

Smith wanted to produce an album of over an hour’s music – a CD album that would be listened to from beginning to end without vinyl’s side one and side two. “It’s our old idea of producing an thematic album, so you sit down and listen to it end to end on your own. This gave us the time to draw out sections and underplay sections. Rather than having to make the point in three or four minutes, we’ve allowed ourselves seven minutes. In that sense, the minimal way of recording, it goes back to our earliest stuff rather than ‘Top’ or ‘Head On The Door’, where we tried to cram everything in. Those albums were good and they worked, but this is supposed to be a bigger sounding record.

“I’ve never done it before, but on this album I was trying to imagine people listening to it. I had various imaginary and non-imaginary people who listened to the record and I found out what they’d feel listening to the songs. I was also singing to this audience dreamt up inside my head. Some of them were critical, and some accepted everything. They were all in different rooms in this hotel. No room service. I was trying to take them aback with the intensity I was trying to produce.”

The most intense moment on the album is the title track, ‘Disintegration’. On every Cure album there is one Robert Smith song that is a ferocious attack on Robert Smith. He seems to have a cathartic need to assault his own body and soul. “I’m desperately uncomfortable with my own body,” he admits. “I have been ever since I’ve left school. I look at myself and think, ‘This can’t be me. Why am I inhabiting this body?’ I’ve always considered myself separate from my body. I’ve always thought it would be nice to have your entire self in a little metal sphere, that you could drop into an empty body of your choice. I’ve got an above average body temperature, which I now realize is the root of a lot of my problems.

Robert Smith

Robert Smith is two degrees above normal.

“There’s always this sudden urge of horror at my being and it all comes out. A lot of bitterness came out about the Kiss Me tour and instead of going to confession, because I don’t believe in absolution, I write songs and try and find a point to things. It now exists as a song and the hatred has left me. I wanted to sing it all in one go and it was devastating trying to do it. I spent five nights getting it right. I had the lights off, waiting until I felt ready, did it, and then disappeared out the back door. You can’t fake vocals , especially with my voice, which becomes transparent. I was having to put myself into these frames of mind in order to produce the required emotions.”

Smith only feels this effort is necessary because he still wants to affect people, to move people, transport them from one swirling kaleidoscope to another. “I’ve become more aware of that role. The fame side of things is through default really. It’s flattering, but it’s really an intrusion. When we were doing ’17 Seconds’ and ‘Faith’ and even ‘Pornography’, it wouldn’t have mattered if it had been released, because we didn’t think anyone would listen to it. If this album wasn’t released it would matter because it’s partly been made for people to listen to.

“We do affect people, but hopefully in a good way, like I’m affected by a good record or good book. I can accept it as natural now. I’m really proud of what we have done. In my mind, there’s a little part of me with Cure songs in it, and it’s got ‘Siamese Twins’, ‘Faith’, ‘Figurehead’, ’17 Seconds’ and now this new track, ‘The Same Deep Water As You’, has gone straight into that part of me. Even if this album fails, it doesn’t matter. It’s been worth it.”

Since the very start of the Cure, Smith has been prophesying the band’s imminent end. Perhaps this was to satisfy his need for an escape route. Perhaps he used the threat to test his own conviction in the Cure. Once again, Smith has been heralding the group’s demise, this time with more vehemence. His senses ave been numbed by years of extreme sensations and bizarre experiences, making writing almost impossible.

“I’ve experienced such extremes both in the band and in my personal life, feelings that last for just a few seconds at a time, that it’s like a drug. After a while, when they’re not there you notice the absence of it and nothing seems real anymore and nothings quite sharp enough or focused enough.

“I just can’t feel anything as keenly as I used to – pleasure or pain. I hold up the whole process of making Cure albums because I can’t write anymore. The Cure could produce two or three albums a year if I didn’t have to write the words. Everyone in the group takes the piss out of me because of my reality attacks. I’m sure you get it more as you get older and you realize the futility of days that go by when you don’t feel you need to experience anything. Unfortunately, in the past that’s led me into self- indulgence and excess, driving the group onwards…onwards and downwards to ever greater feats of excess. Your emotional, physical, and mental tolerance levels keep going up so it’s almost impossible to be surprised or delighted or shocked in a childlike way anymore.

“When you do recapture that feeling, it makes it even more painful, because you realize that it’s still there and unattainable. When I was singing a song off the new album, ‘The Same Deep Water As You,’ in the studio, I was completely overcome for about fifteen minutes. I was amazed that I could still feel like this about something, which made it more disappointing when I woke up the next day and I didn’t feel anything at all.

“The logical end to this is that I stop writing, which I probably will. Whenever I write songs, I can never conceive of a next time. There has to be a need to write songs. There’s no financial need, and no need for glory. If I don’t want to go through another three months agonizing over a record and exhausting myself, then I won’t. The need has to outweigh the distresses it causes. I’m glad I’ve been able to do what I’ve been able to do. If it stops, then that’s OK. There’s a point to my life. That’s the one consistent thing about the Cure – this constant search for a point.”

Is the Cure a career?

“No, a trial! Longevity was never planned for. I always equated initial success with a short life span, so we deliberately went about not being successful to begin with. What I wanted to achieve for the Cure, I can never achieve. I wanted it to be perfect, the perfect group, so I am never satisfied.”

So what do you want?

“I’ve always wanted to get away with murder,” he replies. “A real murder. Or perhaps now I’ll finally do my solo album. I’ve got all these songs that never seemed quite right for the Cure to do. Before this album, I was joking that the Cure would make an instrumental album, but now I definitely think that if we do make another record, it’ll be instrumental. It would be a more filmic way of writing, which I think would be really good fun.

“No, come to think of it, I don’t think the Cure will end, but I can make up an ending if you want me to.”

© Ted Mico & Spin Magazine

Curious Case Of The Cure

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If any rock millionaire other than Robert Smith claimed not to know the chart position of his latest single, it would be impossible to believe.The record in question, “Lullaby”, is at number five,the highest position ever achieved by his group, The Cure, yet he says, “We only knew it was out because the local record shop has it on sale.” Surrounded by standard fodder about love and dancing, Smith’s allegory of being eaten alive by a spider-man looks like an open wound in a kindergarten.

Over 13 years his hypnotic chord progressions, his distressed voice, his lyric obsessions (religion, bleak dreams, lost love, fading memories) and not least his electrified crow’s nest hairstyle have lifted The Cure from cult obscurity to the point where their last album, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987), quietly sold two million copies around the world. So quietly that taxi drivers still have no idea who he is, even after he tells them the name of his group. “I sit in the back thinking ‘This is perfect’.”

Smith, 30 this week, has long been unconventional. At 11 he turned up at school in Crawley wearing his mother’s black velvet dress. “I really don’t know why. I thought I looked good. My teachers were so liberal they tried hard not to notice, but on the way home I was beaten up.”

Three years later he was expelled from another school. “They said I was disruptive, but it was a personal thing. I hated the headmaster and he hated me.” He is not so very far from rock-and-roll orthodoxy.

Smith spent some time on the dole, then formed The Cure in 1976. The group was loved by the critics and ignored by the public. Album cover artwork never featured the faces of the group a policy record companies still consider foolhardy, despite its having been employed by such notable successes as Yes, Led Zeppelin and The Smiths.If fans can’t see the group, how can they identify with them? “I’ve never been comfortable with the way we look,” Smith offers in explanation. “Our records were exactly what I wanted them to be. It would have spoiled them to put us on the front.”

This deliberate absence of image was maintained until the video era made it impossible.Cure videos, however, are hardly tailor-made for Top of the Pops. The “Lullaby” video is three minutes of surreal nightmare, an exquisitely frightening homage to the film Poltergeist, unlikely to be suitable for early evening viewing.

“We didn’t want to release ‘Lullaby’. I actually want to get rid of some of the people who bought the last album,” Smith insists,but he conceded to Polydor Records that a single be released to promote the new album, Disintegration (out next Tuesday). “‘Lullaby’ is my least favourite track, but I suppose it’s a sensible choice because it sounds very Cure-like.”

Radio One evidently shared Smith’s dislike of “Lullaby”, because it wasn’t playlisted in its week of release,despite which it entered the charts at number 11, the group’s highest new entry.

“If I’d tried to be successful, if I’d listened to the advice the record company had given me over the years, I’m sure we wouldn’t be making music now.The way I behave only seems strange if you assume success has been my prime motivation.”

He still drives the same ageing Lada, lives in a spartan Maida Vale flat, and supports the same charities (Greenpeace, CND, Mencap) but mentions them only when asked. “It goes back to things like Morrissey not eating meat. I was a vegetarian for three years, but I didn’t feel a need to champion it as a cause. If people despise us as much as I despise Morrissey, and I say Greenpeace is wonderful, they’re likely to firebomb the Rainbow Warrior.”

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Smith’s logic may not make sense out here in the real world but, within the microcosm of The Cure, he has remained faithful to his ideals. He professes to have little idea of why he is successful, but, when pressed, it becomes clear that he understands the phenomenon very well. “I suppose our music fulfils a need some people feel. It communicates, but nothing specific, just the desire not to feel isolated.”

This sort of communication takes longer to establish than a dance craze, but Smith knows that once a fan is hooked, he (and it is usually he) tends to stay hooked. Given the group’s success, Smith is justified in thinking he must be doing something right. Disintegration features his most intense and agonized work for several years,but it looks set to double the sales of Kiss Me.

“It has to stop,” he says quietly. “After Kiss Me it all got so big, I felt it was happening to some other band, but here I am doing it again.In some weird way, I suppose I must have become,” and he pronounces the word with evident dismay, “a performer.”

© Johnny Black & The Times

Disintegration: The Cure’s new sound will lose at clubs, gain at concerts

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“THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN mixed to be played loud, so turn it up” say the instructions on the inside of the album sleeve of Disintegration, The Cure’s new album. The British rockers have released an excellent album in the tradition of their other great 1980’s releases.

The Cure’s last release, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, displayed many musical styles and complex arrangements throughout its 4 sides. However, the songs on Disintegration differ in one big way: the new album has a much slower tempo, as the band has come up with a more reserved sound to accompany Robert Smith, who had previously been the core of The Cure’s albums. Gone are the quick dance numbers, ‘a la “Why Can’t I be You?” and “In Between Days”; the new sound features keyboard and bass guitar that are only decorated with electronic effects and electric guitar, not dominated by them. With this change in music style, the band will probably not get as much coverage in dance clubs or MTV as they have in the past, but I guarantee that these new songs will absolutely kill in concert.

The album opens with the simply titled “Plainsong,” an addictive number that highlights keyboardist Roger O’Donnell, the newest member of the band (formerly of the Psychedelic Furs). Smith sings about a lost love and past desire on the second track “Pictures of You.”

“If only I’d thought of the right words I could have held onto your heart. If only I’d thought of the right words I wouldn’t be breaking apart all my pictures of you.”

The album kicks into high gear for the up tempo “Lovesong,” a tune which — true to its name — is a simple song of eternal devotion. The steady “Last Dance” shows off the band’s impeccable sense of rhythm, with drummer Boris Williams and bass player Simon Gallup putting down a perfect foundation for Smith’s thoughts about a girlfriend who thought that she has grown too old for him. “I don’t think we would kiss in the way that we did when the woman was only a girl” sings Smith.

“Fascination Street,” the first single from the album has already joined the most-requested list at local radio stations and is bound to be a become a national hit over the summer. The song is one of a couple on the record that could be considered dance tracks and may find a perpetual home at clubs alongside 1988’s “Just Like Heaven.” Smith continues his tradition of singing about people who have tormented him in “Prayers For Rain.” He sings “You fracture me/Your hands on me touch so plain, so stale it kills/You strangle me in hopelessness and prayers for rain.”

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The 9-minute “The Same Deep Water As You” is Smith’s prologue to “Just Like Heaven.” Smith wants to make sure that love is real, that his love will be with him when he awakes, when he sings “Kiss me goodbye/Pushing out before I sleep/Can’t you see I try swimming the same deep water as you/I will kiss you and we shall be together.” A bonus track for CD buyers, “Homesick,” shows another side of The Cure as they construct a song based on layered acoustic guitar and piano. The last song on the album, titled “Untitled,” is essentially a Robert Smith 12-line poem that comes alive with some great fretwork by guitarist Porl Thompsom. “Untitled” paints a picture of Smith as an insecure dreamer who loses someone because of an inner conflict with his insecurities. “Feeling the monster climb deeper inside of me/Feeling him gnawing my heart away hungrily/I’ll never lose this pain/Never dream of you again.”

With recent personnel changes, and Robert Smith saying that this next tour will be The Cure’s last, one can only wonder how much longer this great band will stay together. But with albums like Disintegration to their credit, the band can be proud. They have secured a place in music as one of the most outstanding and creative rock bands of the last two decades.

© Alfred Armendariz & The Tech

What We Can Learn About Mental Health From The Cure’s Disintegration

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Robert Smith gave us Disintegration twenty five years ago. It is a melancholy pop masterpiece. It’s certainly The Cure’s most enduring album, and a significant influence on modern music. It’s also an unlikely album to garner such popularity – it’s not just that it’s dark, but it’s murky, slow, and the songs are long with repetitive streaks of instrumental weaving. But it’s never boring, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

I also think it’s remarkably misunderstood. While The Cure have always been associated with depression, there is a very specific element of mental illness that Disintegration captures that is rarely heard in a pop song, much less an entire album. It’s not just about sadness, or even breaking up or anything remotely so cliché.  It’s about a complete mental breakdown. I’ll even go one further; The Cure’s entire ‘80s catalog can be interpreted as a cycle of manic depression, with each album representing a point on a bipolar scale.

The Cure’s music resonates with people, usually when they’re young, because it works on an emotionally visceral level. The lyrics matter, and can be very good at times, but not as much as the mood of the song. Which is why a song like “Let’s Go To Bed,” which is mostly fun and sexy, is still a little sad. There’s desperation behind it, and it sounds like the singer wants to go to bed because that’s where he’s spending all of his time anyway. So when I talk about The Cure’s songs reflecting parts of manic depression, or bipolar disorder, I mean they capture emotions unique to a depressive or manic state.

The Cure released their second album, Seventeen Seconds, in 1980, followed by Faith and Pornography. These three albums are the lowest point of depression, but they get increasingly more aggressive. Pornography is plagued by an inability to perceive light or happiness, even as an abstract concept. But it breaks at the lowest point, and the singles collection that follows shows more effort to visit the outside world and even dance and flirt a little. The Top is more fun, but still trying a little too hard. The Head on the Door is better, balanced, and comfortable. It’s a good day, but it’s not manic. That comes with Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, which is a completely over-the-top album, especially for The Cure. It’s bright, it’s big, the songs are all over the place, it gets cranky, angry, and violent, but it’s also sweet, clever, energetic, and hypersexual. It’s the kind of album that wakes up at two a.m. and starts redecorating the den, or repainting the kitchen cabinets only to stop halfway and move onto another project.

When it comes to bipolar disorder, most people only know that much. But for people who have lived with it, or experienced it first hand, there is another part not talked about much. It’s the dark part of mania, not just the unpredictability or crankiness, but it’s that too. It’s the crest of emotion before the breakdown, before everything collapses again into a confusing and hurtful mess. That’s Disintegration. Not only does the album capture this mood, it was written for it.

Each song is about a peak of emotions, that crest of feeling before the crash of a manic episode. “Plainsong” sounds innocent enough, but it’s about words that touch way too deep. “Pictures of You” isn’t only about the indescribable twinge of memory, but a micro-examination of the moment it hits you. “Closedown” is one of the clearest examples: “I’m running out of time/ I’m out of step and closing down.” It’s about losing breath because you can’t keep up with reality any longer. Even “Lovesong,” which is a sublime pop gem slipped into the middle of overblown self-examinations, is about committing everything to another person on an uncomfortably deep level.

I think the album really sells itself on the second half, though. If I had to pick a song that best represents Disintegration, it would be “Prayers For Rain,” which just builds, relentlessly, on an idea of calling upon nature. It’s determined, and somehow kind of mad. It’s the breaking point, almost, before shivering into a cold sob during “The Same Deep Water As You.”

Which leads us to the title track. “Disintegration” is a song for mental breakdowns. It’s not just explaining feelings anymore. It’s gushing, with an endless flow of words and excuses and contradictions and anger and resentment and apologies and… it’s so familiar to anyone who’s actually disintegrated, mentally, and watched themselves change into an incoherent monster. He says really horrible things in this song, but they don’t make much sense. He’s just saying them because he’s driven by confusion and pain. It always hits like a brick at the beginning of the last verse, when he goes into “and it’s all come back ’round to breaking apart again/ Breaking apart like I’m made up of glass again.” It just doesn’t stop. He let’s it all fall out of his skull, because it’s there and there’s nowhere else for it to go. It’s the only song on the album with that kind of unexplained electric energy, that seemingly comes from nowhere. In the context of the album, it’s unsettling. In real life, it’s terrifying.

“Homesick” follows, and it sounds like all the energy released on “Disintegration” is never going to come back, and it doesn’t. It’s a heap on the floor, begging to fix the mess it’s made. But the album ends with “Untitled” which is the most self-aware song on the album, and actually lacks the emotional cliff of all the other songs. Instead, it’s just a reflection – it says, I know this is over, and it’s my fault, and I keep doing this, and I don’t know what to do next. The syntax of the last couple of lines mimics the gushing rant of the last verse of “Disintegration,” but shorter and calmer. “Feeling the monster climb deeper inside of me/ Feeling him gnawing my heart away hungrily/ I’ll never lose this pain/ Never dream of you again.” I think the monster is what we heard on “Disintegration.”

Why does Disintegration endure among The Cure’s vast body of work? Because it’s bold and amazing, mostly. But I think Smith tapped into very deep and complicated emotions rarely examined in pop culture, not because we’re not familiar with them, but because they’re difficult. It’s hard to get mental illness right, creatively, and The Cure isn’t even necessarily the best exploration. Their music appeals to adolescents because it’s not always very mature (sometimes they can be very mature, and it’s always a pleasant surprise, but I digress). But it is very primal, which is something we latch onto when we’re young and inexperienced. And it’s a way of looking at depression, anxiety, and mania without getting so clinical. It’s a way for people who experience it without the support of someone who understands to feel validated and understood. That’s incredibly important in a society that doesn’t know how to talk about mental illness. So Disintegration explains a complicated part of mental illness without once saying “I’m sad,” or “I’m depressed,” because it’s a raging manic on its own.

After twenty five years, Disintegration is still falling apart gracefully.

© Cody Ray Shafer

Aux grands maux les grands remedes

Robert Smith ou le chat du Cheshire, Pierrot lunaire ou fantasmagorie à la Lewis Carroll. Robert Smith, leader des Cure, le groupe qui a su introduire le baroque avec finesse dans une décennie qui, a priori, était vouée a la plus complète informatisation, après le moule punk tellement étroit. Les Cure sortent maintenant leur onzième album “Disintegration”, nouvelle plainte vénéneuse dans un jardin touffu comme l’Eden.

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Curieux album en forme de longue ballade, bien loin de la furie psychédélique de ” The Top “, de l’apocalypse empourprée de ” Pornography ” ou de la neige sale et tuante de ses premiers opus majeurs, ” Seventeen Seconds ” et ” Faith “. Plutôt la logique continuation de ” Kiss Me… “, avec partout des nappes de synthés et une voix comme un murmure.

Smith, plus enfant que jamais, nous donne avec ” Disintegration ” l’album le plus accessible, tandis que Lol Tolhurst, cofondateur du groupe avec Robert, s’en va pour aller planer dans des cieux plus cléments. La famille Cure, avec l’ancien clavier des Psychedelic Furs, entamera sa tournée européenne en juin (cinq dates en France) pour aller derrière le Rideau de fer et en revenir en juillet (six dates en France), un mois à  peine après la sortie de l’album, le 2 mai.

Le nouvel album est assez curieux : des suites d’accords aux synthés avec quelques notes de guitares très discrètes par-dessus…
Je ne compose plus à  la guitare. C’est terminé. Seulement du piano avec une basse. En fait, c’est une basse six-cordes, Fender.

C’est un choix plutôt bizarre. Quelles cordes utilises-tu ?
Ça n’est pas un choix bizarre. J’utilise la basse 6 depuis ” Faith “, toujours comme une guitare. ” Pornography ” a été entièrement enregistré avec la basse 6. Quant aux cordes, elles étaient fabriquées par Rotosound ; elles deviennent très dures à  trouver. Elles sont très fines. Le tout sonne comme une guitare assez… originale.

Ton jeu de guitare a toujours été très élaboré : les soli en accords sur ” Seventeen Seconds “, l’utilisation des cordes à  vide et des harmoniques, des tunings inhabituels…
Je ne suis pas vraiment un guitariste. J’aime bien la guitare mais je ne travaille jamais. Je ne jouerai presque plus de guitare sur scène. C’est assez curieux d’ailleurs ; je ne sais pas vraiment qui joue avant que nous ayons commencé le morceau. Mais c’est tellement agréable de pouvoir chanter sans avoir à  jouer…

Ta voix a changé plus aiguà«, plus claire…
Elle est tout simplement meilleure ; avant, c’était la catastrophe.

Tu utilises beaucoup d’effets; flanging, phaser, delay.
On se sert des Boss. Parce que ce sont les seules à  être de couleurs différentes. C’est facile à  reconnaître sur scène, surtout quand tu es saoul (rires).

Penses-tu que les Cure ont eu de l’influence sur toute la nouvelle scène anglaise : Jesus And Mary Chain, The Essence, The Pollen…?
Je ne sais pas. Je suppose qu’on a dû influencer des gens. Mais plutôt de façon spirituelle ; pas musicale. Parce que nous sommes comme ça. A la base, c’est l’esprit du punk musicalement, tout le monde peut faire ce qu’on fait. Peut-être que les gens qui nous écoutent souvent sont imprégnés de notre façon de voir les choses. Mais en général, je déteste les groupes qui essaient de sonner comme The Cure. En fait, il y a un bon groupe, des filles japonaises qui font une reprise d’un de nos morceaux sur ” Seventeen Seconds “.
(Robert se met à  chanter en japonais, avec une voix de geisha)

La production sur ” Disintegration ” semble beaucoup plus importante qu auparavant, notamment si l’on pense à  ” Kiss Me ” qui était presque ” live in the studio “.
Je ne crois pas. Avant l’enregistrement, on avait tous les sons que l on voulait sur des bandes. La production a donc été très facile. C’était juste une question de mixage. En fait, l’album était complètement terminé avant Noël. En l’écoutant, en janvier, le son ne me plaisait pas du tout. J’ai décidé de le remixer pour qu’il sonne plus ” gros “. L’album est quasiment produit par nous. Le producteur n’a aucun pouvoir artistique sur notre travail. Il est juste à  la console.

En France, beaucoup de vos fans sont très jeunes. Votre image compte énormément pour eux…
Dans le groupe, on a tous des frères et des soeurs beaucoup plus jeunes. C’est vrai que beaucoup de jeunes écoutent de la musique atroce. Je pense que nos fans nous aiment parce qu’ils nous pensent différents. Au fil des ans, nous ne changeons pas tant que ça, même si nous nous renouvelons. Ce qui crée ce lien tellement fort entre Cure et son public, c est qu il nous fait confiance. Il sait que nous serons toujours différents, meilleurs. Nous ne décidons pas de notre image, le maquillage, les cheveux… Nous avons une vie en dehors du groupe, les gens l’oublient trop souvent.
Nous sommes comme ça dans la vie. Pour nous, c’est avant tout une façon de vivre confortablement. Je me sens bien quand je suis comme ça.

Beaucoup de gens refusent de vous suivre quand vous abandonnez votre côté sombre et désespéré…
Ça a commencé il y a quatre ans. Mais ça ne m’affecte pas vraiment. De toute façon, les concerts que nous allons donner au cours de notre prochaine tournée, seront beaucoup plus sombres et intenses que les derniers. Le problème, c’est que lorsque nous jouons sur scène, les gens veulent entendre The Walk ou Lovecats et tous ces trucs poppy. Quand ils sont saouls, ils peuvent chanter fort, brailler. Si l’on joue des morceaux comme All Cats Are Grey ou Faith, une partie de l’audience restera calme et nous écoutera tandis que les autres foutront le bordel. Ils sont juste là  pour danser et boire. Si nous jouons Faith et que j’entends quelqu un au premier rang me traiter d enculé, je suis capable d’en pleurer. C’est très difficile de garder le contrôle du public. C’est un dosage très délicat. Nous allons d’ailleurs rejouer ces morceaux sur scène. Nous avons voulu retrouver l’esprit de ” Faith ” sur ” Disintegration “.

Tu as souvent dit que tu n’aimais pas ” The Top “, qui reste à  mon avis votre album le plus psychédélique, avec des chansons complètement folles comme Give Me It ou Bananafishbones…
J’ai dit ça parce que je suis persuadé que ça aurait pu être un album vraiment génial, brillant. La moitié des chansons sont bonnes. Shake Dog Shake ou Give Me It sont vraiment excellentes. C’est bizarre, les chansons sont souvent bonnes, mais l’album est assez mauvais. Il n’a pas d’identité. Je crois que c’est parce que je n’ai pas aimé le réaliser (Smith a quasiment fait tous les instruments, NDR). Ça me rappelle de très mauvais souvenirs. C’était une période difficile pour moi ; j étais vraiment dépressif. ” The Top ” est imprégné de cet état d’esprit. J’ai beaucoup de mal à  le réécouter. Curieusement, ” Pornography ” qui était pourtant beaucoup plus noir, reste un bon souvenir. Je pense encore que c’est un très bon album.

Tu vois toujours Steven bassiste des Banshees avec qui tu as enregistré ” The Glove “?
Non, je ne l’ai pas revu depuis notre dernier concert à  Londres, en 1987. Je ne pense pas le revoir ou faire quoi que ce soit avec lui. Je ne sors plus jamais à Londres ; je reste chez moi ou je pars à  la campagne.

Tes chansons sont souvent inspirées par des rêves ou des cauchemars, comment as-tu écrit ” Disintegration ” ?
Il n’y a plus de rêves sur cet album. La plupart des chansons sont basées sur la réalité ; l’écriture a été très spontanée. Désormais, j’aspire à des choses simples. J’ai commencé comme ça sur ” Kiss Me “, avec des morceaux comme Just Like Heaven ou Catch.

Tu avais un projet de bouquin, The Glass Sandwich… Tu écris beaucoup ?
Je terminerai ce livre quand je ne serai plus dans le groupe. Je n’écris pas beaucoup mais souvent et depuis longtemps; des petits trucs. Si je veux vraiment écrire, j’arrive à  terminer une histoire en un an. Je dois donc déjà  avoir une quinzaine de récits.

Ça n’a pas été difficile de vous séparer de Lol qui était là  depuis le début ? Ça ne va pas être trop dur de continuer à  jouer sans lui, comme le Floyd sans Barrett ?
(Souriant) Non vraiment pas, c’est plutôt un soulagement. Il a tellement changé avec le temps… C’est certainement celui qui a le plus souffert d’être resté dans le même groupe pendant dix ans. Physiquement autant que mentalement, il était dans une complète déchéance. Il buvait beaucoup trop, même pour nous ! Le problème, c’est que Lol n’avait pas vraiment de vie en dehors de Cure. Pour moi, le groupe est une façon d’avoir un plus, de connaître d’autres choses. Tandis que pour Lol, c’était un peu un sac dans lequel il ne portait rien mais qui lui permettait de se croire en voyage perpétuel. Musicalement, il n’avait plus aucun rôle depuis longtemps. Mais on s’en foutait, le problème n’était pas là , il pouvait rester tant qu’il voulait : le groupe était autant à lui qu’à moi ou Simon. Mais à partir de ” Kiss Me “, il s’est mis à devenir très intolérant. Il ne nous parlait plus du tout et il ne composait plus. Quand on le lui disait, il se saoulait, tous les soirs. Il était tellement dépressif ! Ça a été très choquant pour lui de devoir quitter le groupe; mais ça l’a également été pour moi.

Ecoutes-tu beaucoup de musique ?
Récemment, j’ai acheté beaucoup de musique chantée par des enfants, des chorales. Egalement des disques de berceuses. J’aime bien ce genre de trucs. Sinon, dans les nouveautés, je pense que My Bloody Valentine est assez intéressant. Simon, lui, écoute beaucoup de trucs disco. Il aime bien les machins stupides, ça le fait beaucoup rire. Moi, j’écoute énormément de musique classique : Chopin, Debussy, Ravel. Beaucoup de musique médiévale aussi, surtout du luth. Je n’aime pas la musique classique contemporaine. J’apprécie les trucs simples, très simples; comme Satie, c’est bon pour réfléchir. C’est aussi un peu notre façon de composer; des mélodies simples, minimales et climatiques. ” Seventeen Seconds ” est très proche, dans l’esprit, des Gnossiennes ou des Gymnopédies.

Allez-vous tourner dans les pays de l’Est ?
On va jouer en Russie, en Hongrie, en Yougoslavie. li n’y a aucun symbole politique derrière tout ça, nous n’avons aucun message à délivrer. Nous voulons simplement que les gens qui nous aiment nous voient directement, ce qui est légitime, je pense. Nous voulons qu’ils nous connaissent autrement que par nos disques. On s’en fout que ce soit à  l’Est. Pour nous, ce sont simplement des pays où nos fans ne nous ont jamais vus. C’était pareil en Amérique du Sud, une expérience fantastique. Nous préférons la scène au studio.

Que pensez- vous des groupes comme Simple Minds ou U2, qui se sentent très concernés par les problèmes politiques et qui souhaitent participer par tous les moyens à un mouvement de contestation ?
(Visiblement gêné) Je n’ai jamais aimé Simple Minds ou U2. Tout ça, c’est juste du rock n roll. Je n’ai aucune affinité avec ces gens-là . Je suis aussi sensible qu’eux aux problèmes de tous les jours, politiques, sociologiques, etc. Mais ça n’est pas mon métier d’essayer d’y répondre. Je suis chanteur, pas politicien. Le pouvoir que j’ai est déjà  suffisamment gênant pour que j’essaie de le rendre plus important.

Le style de Cure est très particulier. Les gens ont de vous une image très précise. Penses-tu pouvoir apporter quelque chose de nouveau ? Tu parlais tout à  l’heure de renouvellement…
C’est difficile pour moi d’en parler parce que je ne vois pas les Cure de la même façon. Il y a eu plusieurs Cure, beaucoup de line-up très différents. On parlait de ” The Top “; le groupe actuel aurait été parfait pour cet album ; le disque aurait été génial, c’était du sur mesure. De la même façon, les Cure de ” Seventeen Seconds ” ne pourraient pas jouer ” Disintegration “. Pourtant, à  la base, l’idée générale de Cure, le concept, l’odeur et le goût du groupe ont toujours été très précis. C’est pourquoi j’ai sans arrêt eu l’impression de jouer dans le meilleur groupe de rock, même avec des line-up différents : j’ai toujours été dans une formation, quelle qu’elle soit, qui correspondait, d’un point de vue éthique, à ma façon de voir les choses. C’est ce qui fait la force de Cure, une idée très précise du groupe. Voilà  pourquoi je dis qu’il n’a pas beaucoup changé : l’idée de base est identique. En même temps, nous avons su nous renouveler et je pense que la formation actuelle est la bonne. Nous sortons pourtant un album qui est différent du précédent.

On a beaucoup parlé d’un album solo de Robert Smith. Qu’en est-il ? “Disintegration” est-il vraiment un album des Cure ? Jusqu’où va la participation des autres membres ?
L’album solo n a jamais été une décision définitive. Plutôt un truc ponctuel, comme ” The Glove “. J’ai abandonné le projet. Je pense que si nous nous séparions, nous en mourrions. Quant à la démocratie au sein du groupe, elle est désormais établie. Les problèmes survenus à  l’époque de Let’s Go To Bed, étaient dûs aux trop lourdes responsabilités que j’avais eu avec ” Pornography “, quand je voulais tout superviser. Désormais, tout le monde participe à  la création des albums ; chaque membre apporte ses idées, ses compositions. Si elles plaisent à tout le monde, on décide de les enregistrer. Le groupe se porte très bien !

L’interview est terminée, Robert Smith se lève et quitte la salle. A chaque pas qu’il fait, son talon sort de sa chaussure et l’on a l’impression qu’il danse en marchant, son énorme tête d’Eraserhead penchée vers le sol. Tout à l’heure, alors que la meute furieuse de photographes enragés lui demandait de sourire, on pouvait voir que sa poitrine tremblait sous le pull difforme. Vaguement effrayé devant l’obscénité d’un tel spectacle, le leader des Cure souriait comme un enfant, en faisant des grimaces.

© Nicolas Ungemuth & Guitare & Claviers

Spin The Black Circle: Battle Edition – The Cure x Snoop Doggy Dogg

 

Hauraki’s Matt Heath and Jeremy Wells battle for their picks of best album, ever.

Matt Heath says:

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From now until next Friday on Radio Hauraki we’re doing a huge album battle on-air called Spin The Black Circle, where we put different albums up against each other and listeners text vote for their favourite. It gets pretty intense towards the final. Last year it ended in a fierce battle between Tool’s Aenima and Radiohead’s OK Computer in the final. Tool won. Just.

The best album ever is of course Disintegration by The Cure. It changed my life. It came to me when I was a bored teenager living on my parents’ farm. I’d spend my weekends clearing gorse then steal a bunch of beers from my parents, some smokes from the neighbours and sit up in the top paddock blasting it full volume right into my earholes. Opening track Plain Song never failed to ramp up my teenage angst. So epic it’s almost classical and great lyrics “I think it’s dark and it looks like rain, you said, And the wind is blowing like it’s the end of the world, you said. And it’s so cold it’s like the cold if you were dead, and then you smiled for a second”.

I wasn’t a goth, I never spiked up my hair or wore make-up. I just loved the intense emotion in the album. No one else in my life gave it any respect. I wrote out the lyrics to the title track, Disintegration, for the creative writing section of my English exam and failed.

So many good tunes Prayers for Rain, Pictures of You and Untitled.

I still blast the album when I am in a bad mood. It’s violent grimness cheers me up no end… Disintegration. Favourite. Album. Ever.

Jeremy Wells says:

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There’s an old cliche – “timing is everything” – and in music this has more than one meaning. When I first heard Snoop Doggy Dogg’s 1993 hands and knees leg opening album Doggy Style, my musical world was awash with the crywanking durge of grunge.

Internationally, Kurt Cobain was about to shoot himself in the head. Billy Corgan was doing his best impersonation of a whinging child, and locally Hammond Gamble and The Red Nose Band had soared to number one with a song about, oddly, red noses.

Enter Calvin Broadus, AKA Snoop Dogg, with his funky, fresh and fun melange of free-flowing rhymes and singalong friendly catchy choruses. Somehow Doggy Style provided the perfect antidote to the intense navel-gazing that was gripping my 18-year-old world.

Did I know that at the time? Probably not. But when I hear that synthesized keyboard and over-produced bass that has now come to define the G-Funk sound I immediately think of sunny summer days cruising with my friends, smoking Chronic in a white Toyota Corolla FX-GT with a 15″ sub-woofer.

Who Am I (What’s My Name) has truly stood the test of time, as has Gin and Juice, G Funk Intro and Doggy Dogg World. Many people will argue that Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is the most important hip-hop album of all time – and that’s fair enough – but in 2015 most of the tracks on Doggy Style can still get people wiggling their 40-year-old booties on the dance floor… and that’s important to me.

* Spin The Black Circle: Battle Edition features every hour between 10am and 6pm weekdays until Friday 6th of March on Hauraki.

Party Piece

He said:

‘Let’s stay here
Now this place has emptied
And make gentle pornography with one another,
While the partygoers go out
And the dawn creeps in,
Like a stranger.

Let us not hesitate
Over what we know
Or over how cold this place has become,
But let’s unclip our minds
And let tumble free
The mad, mangled crocodile of love.’

So they did,
There among the woodbines and guinness stains,
And later he caught a bus and she a train
And all there was between them then
was rain.

(Brian Patten)