Robert Smith wrote most of The Cure’s eighth album, Disintegration, in a basement flat in London. He recorded it while staying in an attic above a rural studio. These contrasts say a lot about Disintegration. Hellish and heavenly, urban and pastoral, the disc was meant to satisfy Smith’s urge to create “something autumnal”—a study in muted atmosphere suspended in twilight. Accordingly, Disintegration was both a retreat and a victory when released in 1989. While expanding the gloomy vistas of The Cure’s earlier work, it became the group’s bestseller. Its predecessor, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, had been an explosion, but Disintegration folds in on itself, trading eclecticism for psychedelic self-absorption. The overcast pop of “Pictures Of You” and “Lovesong” not only show how frank and evocative a songwriter Smith had become, it adds ballast to the lush, dreamy undertow of mini-epics like “Prayers For Rain.” Often pegged as monochromatic, Disintegration has only grown more subtly shaded—and lingeringly complex—over time.
In spite of Disintegration’s consistency, the second disc of Rhino's Deluxe Edition shows that, beneath the clouds, The Cure was still having fun. The collection of demos serves not only as an ultrasound of the album, but as a playground for a range of ideas as varied as Kiss Me. The reissue is rounded out by the flawless 1989 live album Entreat, expanded to exactly and gorgeously mirror Disintegration.
Grade: A (original album), A- (bonus discs)