“I would be monk-like and not talk to anyone. It was a bit pretentious really, looking back, but I actually wanted an environment that was slightly unpleasant”. – Robert Smith on the making of ‘Disintegration’ in ‘Never Enough: The Story of The Cure’ by Jeff Apter
Robert Smith has driven The Cure not only through a few different band line-ups but also through a diverse sonic landscape while retaining the indelible mood that is The Cure. The grooves of their 1979 debut ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ were laden with nervy pop songs but that was soon followed with the textural dirges of ‘Seventeen Seconds’. This album, the haunting ‘Faith’, and the brooding ‘Pornography’ had a goth-rock feel much like their buddies Siouxsie and the Banshees with whom The Cure toured (with Smith filling in on guitar duties when John McKay suddenly quit the Banshees).
The Cure once again surprised with the psychedelic and experimental ‘The Top’ but this was preceded by three angular yet jaunty pop songs: ‘Let’s Go to Bed’, ‘The Walk’ and ‘The Love Cats’. These singles were in a similar vein to early tunes like ‘Killing an Arab’ and ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and were the harbingers to The Cure’s most commercially successful period sparked by the albums ‘Head on the Door’ and ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’. Songs like ‘In Between Days’ and ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ proved that underneath the gloom and doom, Smith couldn’t help himself from penning a catchy pop song. These two albums brought the band the commercial breakthrough that many other groups so desired. But alas, this success failed to lift the spirits of Robert Smith.
Smith (like Ziggy) tried to ‘break up the band’ on several occasions and claimed that the very pop songs that catapulted the band to success were initially intended to repel Cure purists (I’m not about to wish him better luck next time because I loved both facets). When it came time to record their eighth studio album Smith and crew were not too chirpy for many reasons.
There had been a teenage double suicide where The Cure had been played during the act. Keyboardist Lol Tolhurst’s heavy drinking had become so much of a liability that it was better for him not to be in the band and Smith retreated into himself and his lack of communication may of have had something to do with his substantial hallucinogenic use. The album title says it all.
The double album is certainly less upbeat than their previous two and almost feels like it runs in slow motion in contrast. However, even if most of the themes rotate around despair, there is a devastating honesty and hypnotic beauty that appeals to listeners who want to really feel music. Sonically, it has a grand, lush, orchestral flair that underpins Smith’s incurable sense of melody. However, their record label was not too impressed dubbing the new album ‘commercial suicide’ and ‘willfully obscure’. But three million fans cannot be wrong and ‘Disintegration’ became and remains the band’s biggest success.
By Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy