David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 142: The Cure (Disintegration)

May 4, 2022

 "I'll pull out my heart/I'll feed it to anyone/I'm crying for sympathy/crocodile cry for the love of the crowd."

Some lines, such as this one from The Cure's "Disintegration," are perfect, so much to unpack from the first person subject to the actions of self-mutilation and crying with potential multiple intentions. I hear lines like that and I am reminded of what rock lyrics can do. 

I had actually gotten bored with The Cure by Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. "Why Can't I Be You" seemed the most pointless, pretentious song I had ever heard, so I hadn't paid much attention to Cure releases after that. "Lovesong," off of Disintegration, resonated some when I heard it, but I felt burned by what I had heard from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. To be honest, I have never not associated The Cure with a lost love, so the steering away was probably just smart defensive positioning on my part. And so years passed without me paying much attention, even when The Cure produced later perfect pop songs, such as "Friday I'm In Love."

So when a friend burned me a copy of Disintegration almost ten years after its release, I had enough distance from the pain to be able to accept this Cure. The entire Disintegration album was a testament to that dark band that drew me during the mid 80's. "Pictures of You," "Lovesong" and "Homesick" were already devastating enough, but when you get to the final (credited, as there was a hidden track) "Disintegration," you better be ready to go to dark places that you may have trouble extraditing yourself from later.  If I had bought this album in 1989, I am sure I would have dissolved into a puddle of self-pity.

"Disintegration" has that rare ability to poke at the marrow of different bones. A seemingly never-ending ode to betrayal, the song challenges you to consider your part in a treacherous act. It reminds you, with its relentless beat, that relationships are on a path to disintegration, "kiss[es] of treachery," "streams of greed," "addiction of duplicities," and "pictures of trickery." 

The backstory for the album's creation is well known: Robert Smith depressed that he was ready to turn 30 (oh, Robert, wait 'til you hit 60), band full of internal frictions, and a desire to return to the darkness of their earlier albums that merited the "Goth" label.

At 8:21 minutes long, "Disintegration" simply lulls you into the darkest places of your resentment, anger and grief. "Round and round and round and it's coming apart again over and over and over."  Over and over, we have Robert Smith's lead vocals resonating with resignation, punctuated by plaintive pleas of help; Simon Gallup's bass sliding in as your pulse; and keyboards and guitars swirling through the kind of dark haze that accompanies the wounded soul trying to disappear into alcohol or drugs.

The disturbing imagery barely registers in our haze: "and mouth and eyes and heart all bleed," "stains on the carpet/stains on the memory" as we curl into fetal positions reminded that "we both knew how the end always is/how the end always is/how the end always is/how the end always is." Listeners re-cue the song, saying, "what did I expect? How could I have not known it would come to this?"

I have written outside of this song series of friendships that come and go (I Can't Help You Anymore). They remain unresolved in my heart, even if in my head I know there can be closure. There can be times I will put "Disintegration" on repeat and let it endlessly play over and over and over, never quite knowing if I am the betrayer or the betrayed.  Is it Judas or Jesus sitting in the dark wondering how it all fell apart? Jesse James or Robert Ford?  Brutus or Caesar?  Me or you?

Et tu, reader?

The Cure.  "Disintegration."  Disintegration. Fiction. 1989. Link here.

<-Day 141: The Tragically Hip. "Fifty Mission Cap." 

Day 143: Dr. Dog. "The Rabbit, The Bat, And The Reindeer."