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: “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: Be my valentine

Okay. So here’s something that’s never been done before, at least not on this blog, or really, during any of my years of blogging. It’s true. I have never done a post observing this somewhat suspect ‘holiday’, a day that has been over-commercialized and become more about selling chocolates and flowers and overpriced dinners than spending time with the one you love. Still, as I’ve alluded to in previous posts, I do have a sappy side, a side that gets totally wrapped up in rom-coms and even the odd Hallmark Christmas film. And yeah, my wife and I typically do observe February 14th, usually in our own quiet way, but the odd time we have gone out for a nice dinner and paid exorbitant prices for roses.

It just so happened a few weeks ago that I realized I was due for a new playlist and the idea occurred to me to create one of ‘love songs’. Then, I quelled the idea, remembering the struggle Victoria and I had looking for appropriate songs in my collection that we could dance to on our wedding day. “Do none of your bands write songs about love?” she asked, frustrated and tired at one point during our search. Apparently not, was the answer, at least not in the conventional sense, the sense in which hair bands managed it in the 80s and out of which some R&B singers have made a career. Often the alternative and indie bands to whom I listen wrote beautiful lyrics that touched on love but did so looking at it not as a pure thing but one to be feared and revered, a bringer of both pain and joy. In short, not your typical love songs.

In the end, we found a handful to use, of which a few of them can be found in the playlist below. Of course, I had Victoria in mind while putting this one together, though I know she wouldn’t appreciate many of the tracks, still, there’s a little something for everyone. I’ve got some iconic tunes by influential alt-rock bands like The Cure and The Smiths, lesser known acts from the 90s like The Lowest of the Low and My Drug Hell, and of course, highlights from the indie kids of this new century, like Bloc Party and The Decemberists. I’ve got the whole list below, in case the Spotify doesn’t work for you, and included a lyrical gem from each song, just to give a glimpse of what you can be listening for as you peruse the list.

1. The Cure “Lovesong”
“Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am home again. Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am whole again.”

2. Elbow “An audience with the pope”
“I have an audience with the Pope, and I’m saving the world at eight, but if she says she needs me, she says she needs me, everybody’s gonna have to wait.”

3. Blur “To the end”
“You and I collapsed in love. And it looks like we might have made it.”

4. The Rural Alberta Advantage “In the summertime”
“Once in a while, I know our hearts beat out of time. And once in a while, I know they’ll fall back in line.”

5. Teenage Fanclub “What you do to me”
“There’s something about you, got me down on my knees.”

6. The Cranberries “Dreams”
“Now I tell you openly, you have my heart so don’t hurt me. You’re what I couldn’t find, totally amazing mind, so understanding and so kind, you’re everything to me.”

7. The Postal Service “Such great heights”
“I am thinking it’s a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images, and when we kiss they’re perfectly aligned.”

8. Coldplay “Yellow”
“Look at the stars, look how they shine for you.”

9. Depeche Mode “One caress”
“Just one caress from you and I’m blessed.”

10. James “Just like Fred Astaire”
“Meteors may strike the earth. Nations live and die. I’m the boy who got the girl who showed me how to fly.”

11. The Beautiful South “Song for whoever”
“I love you from the bottom of my pencil case. I love you in the songs I write and sing.”

12. Death Cab For Cutie “I will follow you into the dark”
“Love of mine, someday you will die, but I’ll be close behind, and I’ll follow you into the dark. No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white, just our hands clasped so tight, waiting for the hint of a spark.”

13. Oasis “Wonderwall”
“I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now.”

14. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Do you love me?”
“I knew from that moment on that I’d love her till the day that I died.”

15. The Lowest of the Low “Subversives”
“There’s something subversive about you and me, ’cause there’s a market-value on love and we’re getting something for free.”

16. The Smiths “There is a light that never goes out”
“And if a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.”

17. The Lemonheads “Alison’s starting to happen”
“I never looked at her this way before, but now she’s all I see.”

18. Bloc Party “This modern love”
“Do you want to come over and kill some time? Throw your arms around me.”

19. The Verve “Sonnet”
“Yes, there’s love if you want it, don’t sound like no sonnet, my lord.”

20. Chairlift “Bruises”
“I tried to do handstands for you, but every time I fell for you. I’m permanently black and blue, permanently blue for you.”

21. The Decemberists “We both go down together”
“And my parents will never consent to this love. But I hold your hand.”

22. Black Box Recorder “Andrew Ridgley”
“I came alive to the smouldering fire in your eyes. I love you now and I will ’til the day that I die.”

23. The Stone Roses “Ten storey love song”
“When your heart is black and broken and you need a helping hand. When you’re so much in love, you don’t know just how much you can stand.”

24. First Aid Kit “Emmylou”
“I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June, if you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too. No, I’m not asking much of you, just sing little darling, sing with me.”

25. Björk “Violently happy”
“Since I met you, this small town hasn’t got room for my big feelings. Violently happy, ’cause I love you.”

26. Longpigs “On and on”
“All the songs that I’ve sung you, more often than you know. You’re the love that I’ve clung to more often than I’ve let it show.”

27. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros “Home”
“Ah, home, let me come home, home is wherever I’m with you.”

28. My Drug Hell “Girl at the bus stop”
“Girl at the bus stop, I wished for once that the bus would never come. She sat downstairs, I sat behind I couldn’t get her off my mind.”

29. Pulp “Babies”
“Oh I want to take you home. I want to give you children. You might be my girlfriend, yeah.”

30. Nine Inch Nails “Closer”
“I want to f*ck you. I want to taste you. I want to feel you.”

Enjoy. Happy (Saint) Valentine’s Day.

And of course, I’d be up for hearing what your own favourite ‘love’ songs are from the alternative and indie rock realms.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.

Best albums of 1987: #5 The Cure “Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me”

I was probably in 9th grade (around the time this album was released) when I first heard tell of The Cure. A friend of mine on the street, who I had played with growing up and those days, simply “hung out” with, told me one day that he was going to see them in concert, that very night, and he had gotten the band’s name shaved into the back of his head for the occasion. His older sister was bringing him and, now that I look back, it was probably a pre-requisite for her parents allowing her to go all the way to Toronto to see them with her friends. He rhymed off names of songs, none of which rung a bell. I didn’t have an older sister (or older brother for that matter) to introduce me to their music. Nope. I was, in fact, that older sibling that probably influenced the tastes of my younger brethren when I got into music in a big way a few years later.

I didn’t actually hear The Cure (in a conscious way) until a few years later when another of my neighbour friends played them for me and then, recorded sections, if not copies in full, of this album, “Staring at the sea”, and “Disintegration” on cassette for me. In this way, his favourite songs influenced my own, his tastes tending toward the more maudlin of their music, but later, when I caught and recorded a “spotlight” on them on MuchMusic, I started to find my own way in The Cure’s world.

“Kiss me kiss me kiss me” is the band’s seventh album and as double LPs go, it’s big, it’s got a lot of songs, and it’s quite eclectic. In my mind, it bridges the gap between the dark, “gothic” rock of “Faith” and “Pornography” and the pop sensibilities of “The head on the door”. It’s been widely publicized how hard those darker albums were on frontman Robert Smith and how much he hated the “goth” label. It’s no wonder he wanted to write lighter pop songs in the mid-80s and did so successfully. The songs on “Kiss me kiss me kiss me” are a good mix of the dark and plodding and the light and bouncy and the rest lie somewhere in between. It resulted in The Cure achieving their highest charting album to date and made them a name in North America.

My three picks for you from this album all fall under the “single” category but one of them is one that you wouldn’t think obvious as a single. Have a look and a listen and let me know if there are others on this great album that you prefer.


”Why can’t I be you?”: This wasn’t one of the ones off the album that would’ve been highlighted to me by my friend John. In fact, I think the first I might have heard of it was the extended remix of it on “Mixed up”, which I purchased on a whim when I was younger. I think it was the last record I ever bought before I started collecting again, five or so years ago. Sadly (but not too sadly because it was quite warped), I have no idea where it is now (have no fear, I picked up the reissue a couple months ago) but I remember not being super impressed with the remix of “Why can’t I be you?” at the time. Over the years, though, it has grown on me, a bouncy and upbeat number that features a barrage of synthesized horns and Robert Smith growling and skitting and trilling and scatting, really making a lot of vocal sounds not typically made in a pop song.

”Catch”: This tune, on the other hand, was one of my friend John’s favourites. He included it on a mixed tape he once made for me and I didn’t understand it at all at the time. It just seemed absurd and weird but then at some point, I made it past all Robert Smith’s “do do do”s and listened to his lyrics. “And I remember she used to fall down a lot. That girl was always falling, again and again, and I used to sometimes try to catch her. But never even caught her name.” Apparently inspired by a line in one of the Rocky movies where the title character is whispering to a comatose Adrian, the words are actually quite lovely. And in this context, the mellow shuffling beat that is given a lazy feel with synthesized strings and the flanged guitar that comes seemingly out of nowhere at the chorus, all seem just right.

”Just like heaven”: This track, the third single released off the album found itself on the top of the list when did my Top five tunes post, showcasing my favourite songs by The Cure, early last year. Yeah. So it’s my favourite tune by this band and one of the big reasons this album became a favourite of mine. I’m not going to go on here and repeat words that you can find in that other post, except to say this: “‘Show me, show me, show me, how you do that trick. The one that makes me scream,’ she said. ‘The one that makes me laugh,’ she said. And threw her arms around my neck.” Those words make me want to get up and dance with wild abandon. Every time.


Check back next Thursday for album #4. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Dead Can Dance “Within the realm of the dying sun”
9. Spaceman 3 “The perfect prescription”
8. The Jesus And Mary Chain “Darklands”
7. Jane’s Addiction “Jane’s Addiction”
6. The Sisters of Mercy “Floodland”

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