“Disintegration is the best album ever!” says Kyle at the conclusion of “Mecha-Streisand” from the first season of South Park. I don’t know if I was even 17 yet when I first watched that episode and heard those words. I didn’t know much about the Cure, beyond the fact that Robert Smith could save the world. I think the episode probably inspired me to start reading about them and eventually led me to buy Galore. It has taken me 20 years to actually listen to Disintegration. As you might imagine, there were expectations.
So, first off, of the 10 songs here, four were singles, meaning that, for anyone familiar with their singles as I am, it’s an easy entry point. But despite knowing these four songs really well, I always imagined Disintegration as something apart from these songs. That’s clearly not true (40% of the songs…) and also just utterly absurd. But that’s what childhood expectations do for my brain.
This record is regularly heralded as a return to the more depressing, moody music they were making earlier in the 1980s but the sound is very much in line, to my ears, with the music they had been making prior to this record. I don’t know that I hear such a huge left turn from Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me musically; I just hear a better record, with far less filler. Yes, the lyrics are considerably more downbeat, and maybe Smiths’ performance is too. But, to me, this is pure late ’80s Cure with a much cleaner, more elaborate sound than on their early records. This is not necessarily a criticism, just a comment given the huge amount of ink spent on talking about this record as a return to their earlier sound. (Does this really sound more like Pornography than their more recent music? Not to me.)
I’m with the people who listen to this and don’t quite understand why it’s considered their best ever record or one of the great records of its era. It’s a good set of songs, and Smith and co are full of ideas in their arrangements, as usual. But this record just doesn’t resonate with me as much as my favourite records of the era. Nor does it sound particularly innovative.
What I’m saying is that it’s good – it’s quite good – but I don’t really get how it’s a masterpiece. Maybe I should have listened to it when I was 17.