Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Album Of The Week- The Cure- Disintegration

The Cure are a band who, like the Grateful Dead, have a large-yet-cult-ish following of sometimes monomaniacal fans. Meanwhile, everyone else thinks they know what the band is, dismissing them out of hand without ever giving them a listen. Get past the image foisted on them by the public, and the Dead were actually one of the best bands during their heyday, recording quintessentially American music. As for The Cure, they were, along with The Smiths, the reason why British pop music was so damn good in the 80s. Yes, I said "pop music." Just as the Dead are unfairly pigeonholed as toothless hippies who noodled for 2 hours a night, The Cure are unfairly slotted as joyless goth music for suicidal, immature teens.

The Cure's Disintegration is one of those "classic" albums that could use a resurgence in popularity just so everyone will hear it for what it is rather than what they think it is or remember it being. While it certainly is aptly described with adjectives like gothic, atmospheric, slow, and, yes, depressed, it also contains two of the band's most popular songs. Which, for the record, are upbeat love songs. More importantly, though, Disintegration is secretly an epic psychedelic rock album blended with The Cure's distinctive goth/post-punk style. According to interviews, Robert Smith was having a hard time with the band's popularity before the recording of the album and fell into a depression. Oddly, he didn't lapse into alcoholism or heroin as you might expect, but instead went for LSD. As such, Disintegration isn't psychedelic in the sunny way of The Beatles or other 60s pop groups. Rather, it led to The Cure having long instrumental sections, loads of effects and reverb on the guitars and vocals, and a 71 minute run time.

This album is what I would call a "qualified masterpiece." What I mean is, it doesn't have the near universal appeal that things like Sgt. Pepper's or Led Zeppelin IV seem to. You really have to want to listen to Disintegration, to submit to its pacing and vibe, in order to appreciate and fall in love with it. I could sit here and list things that will keep people from liking it, but they'd be the same things that are so great about it. Such as the way most of its dynamic songs are in its first half, leaving the back half for lengthy and atmospheric tracks, like 'Homesick', which I always think is an instrumental because the vocals don't come in until the 3:20 mark. Or the surprising one-two punch of the almost-funky 'Lullaby' and the jagged post-punk bass of 'Fascination Street.'

Ironically regarded by The Cure's record label as "commercial suicide" before its release, Disintegration served only to make the band even more popular than ever. And while it is widely regarded by critics as their best album, I wonder if they notice how weird and psychedelic it is and not just all the typical goth stuff. In any case, it really is one of the best albums ever with a unique sound and great songs.

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