• Old 'Stache

Robert Smith’s Magnum Opus: Disintegration

written by: on July 13, 2012

A good handful of the most influential and commercially successful bands in history have come from England, names like Radiohead, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Coldplay to name a few. For some reason The Cure never seems to make it onto this list, but if you ask a group of musicians what some of their biggest influences are, The Cure will pop up. They have been one of the most shapeshifting and genre jumping groups since the early 1980s. Looking through the discography is like watching the evolution of the band and Robert Smith through their formation in the late ’70s and up until their last album in 2008. Most bands don’t stay together long enough to last a decade with or without core members leaving or rotating through. During this time, The Cure went through many shapes, styles and forms and experimented in many different ways that influenced generations of bands in their wake.

Disintegration is one album that characterizes their style, and is no doubt a contender—if not the all-time champion—for the best Cure album ever. It was created during their commercial peak in the late 1980s. It has sold more than any other Cure album, topping more than 3 million copies worldwide despite some record label executives believing the band was being deliberately uncommercial. Part of the inspiration for Disintegration was Robert Smith approaching the “old” age of 30. He believed that most great rock artists created their magnum opus before they reached that age, and could not create a pinnacle work after. Thematically Disintegration might be Robert Smith’s most ambitious attempt as an artist that developed his personal style for the rest of his career. Even work as late as Bloodflowers in 2004 screams and bleeds with influence from Disintegration.

The album opener, “Plainsong” sets the tone and pace for Disintegration with a crash of a gong followed by huge walls of synth drenched in distortion, slow and beautiful melodies dripping from the guitars swaying through the speakers with reverb and epic drums to carry the weight of the song in a way that feels like something between a waltz and a march. Robert Smith’s dark and quiet vocals bounce and echo across the entire sound with lyrics that give you a strange feeling of wanting to float away in a puff of smoke without a care in the world. “Sometimes you make me feel like I’m living at the edge of the world” Smith says to you, and bam, you’re in another universe for the next 70 minutes of Disintegration.

You have floated away into a dream world made of oceans of sound where a pebble of two or three guitar notes can cause moody ripples to build and cascade into a tidal wave wall of sound that you can’t escape.

Most of the album is filled with dark and dreary songs that are downers for the most part. People tend to associate sadness and break-up songs with The Cure, but we tend to forget that The Cure also had the ability to write great pop songs like “Friday I’m in Love,” but those songs don’t tap into the core of The Cure. The most upbeat song on Disintegration is “Pictures of You” with its airy bubbling guitars.

We cannot forget about “Lovesong” possibly The Cure’s most iconic song next to other titans such as “Just Like Heaven” or “Friday I’m in Love.” “Lovesong” is in a level all its own not because of its immense commercial success, but more importantly because of its influence. The list of bands that have covered “Lovesong” (not to mention Cure songs in general) is one of the more diverse and extensive lists you could find. Bands like 311, A Perfect Circle, and Death Cab for Cutie have had well received versions of the track, but that doesn’t count all the bands that have unofficially covered it live or on the Internet. There was even a hardcore/metal band tribute to Disintegration where bands like Chimera and Converge, among others, contributed tracks. Even when covered by hardcore bands you can still pick up on the emotion and passion that The Cure put into the original.

If you type “Lovesong” into YouTube you’ll see that Adele’s version of David Letterman is one of the first results. Bands like The Beatles and Radiohead create that kind of influence to inspire musicians to cover their music or even inspire future musicians to pick up the guitar for the first time ever, but this kind of recognition isn’t given to The Cure on such a day-to-day basis.

The Cure – Disintegration setlist:

  1. “Plainsong”
  2. “Pictures of You”
  3. “Closedown”
  4. “Lovesong”
  5. “Last Dance”
  6. “Lullaby”
  7. “Fascination Street”
  8. “Prayers for Rain”
  9. “The Same Deep Water As You”
  10. “Disintegration”
  11. “Homesick”
  12. “Untitled”