Best albums of 1989: #3 The Cure “Disintegration”

For those that only have a cursory knowledge of The Cure, “Disintegration” is likely where they get the impression of the band as dark and dreary, which, not coincidentally, was my own first impression of them.

I distinctly remember an afternoon a few years earlier, a friend of mine from my street excitedly telling me how he was going to see a concert that evening with his older sister. A band that I had never heard of, yes, The Cure, and he rhymed off a litany of songs that, surely, I had heard. And I felt so bad that I hadn’t, that I eventually fibbed when he came to a song or two of which I absolutely must have heard. I finally listened to some of those songs a few years later when I borrowed a couple of CDs off my friend John (or was it Tim): “Staring at the sea”, the early singles collection, and this one, “Disintegration”.

After all the success of their singles in the 1980s and the increased sales of their previous album, “Kiss me kiss me kiss me”, frontman Robert Smith became disenchanted with the idea of his group becoming a successful pop rock band. This and the realization that he was shortly to be turning 30 years old pushed our friend Robert into depression and heavily into psychedelics. He then set out to make a record that reflected his mindset at the time and returned to the dark, goth rock sound The Cure had explored on some of their early records.

Of course, when their labels heard the album, expecting more of the new wave inspired pop they were used to selling, they pushed to delay the album’s release date. Their worries turned out to be needless because “Disintegration” would go on to be the band’s biggest selling record ever. Not only that but it is considered by many to be Smith’s best work, the album finding itself on many lists (yeah, not just this one).

As dark and atmospheric and grandiose as most of “Disintegration” is, the album is not without its singles, and many of these charted quite high. And its from these that I offer my three picks for you, mostly because these are some of my early favourites from the album, indeed, some my earliest favourites ever from the band.


”Fascination street”: That haunting and foreboding bass line, ringing and echoing guitars, sounding very much like the squealing of bats or other creatures of the night, it’s all very dark. The intro carries on well over two minutes, setting a mood to wallow in, before Smith even starts in singing about a night out in New Orleans. “So let’s cut the conversation and get out for a bit, because I feel it all fading and paling, and I’m begging to drag you down with me, to kick the last nail in.” An odd choice for a single but that’s what it was. Elektra, The Cure’s American label, refused the band’s first choice for the album’s first single, which was “Lullaby”, as was it everywhere else in the world besides North America, and went with “Fascination Street” instead. It hit number one on Billboard’s newly established Modern Rock charts and set up “Disintegration” for its unexpected and wild ride on the charts.

”Pictures of you”: Even at seven and a half minutes, this track is not the longest on the album but is quite long for a single. This was the final one to be released off “Disintegration” and it is apparently either about the aftermath of a fire and finding photos or based on an essay by some mystery author whose name is similar to that of Smith’s wife, both tales have been woven by the frontman. The song is a meandering piece that shimmers and wavers in that lovely space that occurs behind your eyelids as you sit in your dimly lit teenaged room, crying over your lost first love. “Remembering you running soft through the night. You were bigger and brighter and whiter than snow and screamed at the make-believe, screamed at the sky and you finally found all your courage to let it all go.” Such beauty in pain.

”Lovesong”: Written by Robert Smith as a gift for his fiancée at the time and now wife, Mary Poole, it is likely the most emotional piece on the album and has been used as a wedding song by more than a few of my friends. When Robert Smith sings, “Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am whole again”, you feel as he feels, even with such simple words. It is about as upbeat as “Disintegration” gets and the closest thing to an obvious single but yet doesn’t feel out of place given its big sound. It also has one of my favourite bass lines ever, which wasn’t even ruined for me by younger brother who played it over and over and over after someone had taught it to him.


Check back next Monday for album #2. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. The Jesus And Mary Chain “Automatic”
9. Galaxie 500 “On fire”
8. The Beautiful South  “Welcome to The Beautiful South”
7. The Grapes of Wrath “Now and again”
6. New Model Army “Thunder and consolation”
5. The Wonder Stuff “Hup”
4. Pixies “Doolittle”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Playlist: Time to get your Goth on

Happy World Goth Day everyone!

Er… To be honest, it’s not a holiday I observe but it did give me occasion to start in on an idea that I’ve kicked around in the past. And that is making and sharing genre-themed playlists on these pages. So, yeah, starting things off with Goth.

Goth is easily the music genre, lifestyle, and subculture that is most misunderstood by mass media and the public in general. I remember the going joke amongst a few of my coworkers, some years ago, which centred around the term ‘practicing Goth’ (as in, ‘Look at all that black, it looks like Jennifer is practicing Goth today’). It’s a term we culled from an article, one of many that had wrongfully attributed the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre as members of the ‘Goth community’.

I’m not sure I even fully understand the idea of being and ‘practicing’ Goth and all of the different offshoots that now exist but I do enjoy some facets of the fashion (the adoption of Victorian dress, for instance). I am also quite a big fan of a lot of the music that inspired the original scene, though I completely missed out on it, being too young at the time.

Some people sneer at the term Goth as a genre of music, calling it gimmicky, and the truth of the matter is that many of the original artists attached to the genre disliked the tag and tried to loosen its hold. I can remember going to a Sisters of Mercy show in Toronto in 1998, seeing all the youngsters in the audience wearing black, leather, S&M gear, etc., and wondering what they thought of lead singer Andrew Eldritch coming out on stage with his hair bleached blonde and cut short, and wearing a loud red Hawaiian shirt.

The idea in creating this playlist was not to define what is and what is not goth but to celebrate those artists that inspired generations to wear black. It is somewhat chronological, starting with those post-punk artists that toiled in darkness (Joy Division, Bauhaus), continuing with those that took up the mantle (The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy), squeezing in some acts that are not technically goth but definitely don’t sound out of place (Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen), and finally, gently transitioning to those that felt honoured to play in the originators’ shadows (She Wants Revenge, The Horrors), many years later.

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist:

1. Joy Division “She’s lost control”
2. Bauhaus “Bela Lugosi’s dead”
3. Tones On Tail “Christian says”
4. Love and Rockets “Haunted when the minutes drag”
5. The Cure “The hanging garden”
6. Killing Joke “Love like blood”
7. Siouxsie & The Banshees “Cities in dust”
8. Sisters of Mercy “Alice”
9. The Mission “Tower of strength”
10. The Cult “She sells sanctuary”
11. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Red right hand”
12. Concrete Blonde “Bloodletting (The vampire song)”
13. Leonard Cohen “Waiting for the miracle”
14. Dead Can Dance “Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove”
15. Cranes “Shining road”
16. Interpol “Obstacle 1”
17. She Wants Revenge “Tear you apart”
18. The Horrors “Do you remember”
19. Esben and the Witch “Marching song”
20. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness “According to plan”

Enjoy.

For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.

Vinyl love: The Sisters Of Mercy “Some girls wander by mistake”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Sisters Of Mercy
Album Title: Some girls wander by mistake
Year released: 1992
Year reissued: 2017
Details: standard black, 4 x LP box set (includes 2 x 12″ singles at 45 rpm)

The skinny: I thought I had already bought the only Sisters of Mercy vinyl box set in “Vision thing” and had no intention of getting this reissue of the early singles compilation, “Some girls wander by mistake”, when I first caught wind of it. Then, my friend Tim, whom I’ve already credited a few times in these pages with turning me on to this band, pointed out that the 12″ singles being reissued with the box were the final two singles ever released by the band. The fact that these two, “Temple of love (1992)” and “Under the gun”, are two of my favourites really sold this one. And now, I really don’t know what I was thinking when I first considered taking a pass. Every time this hits my turntable, I remember how essential this box is to my collection.

Standout track: “1969”