I went to high school in a very small town in the middle of the United States. Most of the people that I went to school with had a musical diet that was comprised entirely of country, classic rock, AC/DC, or some combination of all three of those. Fortunately for me, there was one interesting radio station with a broadcasting radius that reached my town and I found myself sitting up late nights absorbing the things that they played on that station that I could not hear anywhere. When I got my drivers liscense, I often drove to a city close to where I lived and over time I became friends with several people that worked there. I was introduced to all the basic staple groups of modern 'alternative' rock and branched out from there.
The Cure was one of the groups that I enjoyed from the first time I heard them, and even though their overall output varied quite a bit from their first releases to their mid releases (and especially with their newest efforts, which I simply cannot get into), I enjoyed a good portion of what they put out. Over time, I've found myself gravitating towards what most people would consider their darker material (although the group has a rare few songs that could actually be called upbeat) and especially Disintegration. For a group that has consistently put out fairly lengthy albums, I've always considered this release to be not only their epic, but their best.
In twelve tracks and well over seventy minutes of music, the group runs the full range of emotions and their music has never really seemed so layered and lush. The disc opens with the dense "Plainsong," as multiple layers of synths all rush over one another in crushing waves while a pretty guitar melody barely manages to keep things grounded as sparse percussion provides just the right punch. "Pictures Of You" is probably the emotional high point on the album and one of several tracks on the release that many people outside fans of the group have heard. Once again mixing great guitar work with washes of chimes and a steady rhythm section, it's the most upbeat that the group sounds on the entire album.
From there, the group just keeps coming with great tracks, and another one of the more well-known tracks from the group in the highly catchy "Love Song." Despite all the tracks that many people have heard from the album (including "Fascination Street"), it's the latter, less accessible half of the album where the group really locks into a dark group that can't be shook. "Prayers For Rain" opens things with heavy layers of shuddering keyboards and chiming guitars while Robert Smith seems to enter an almost desperate place with his vocals. The nine-minute "The Same Deep Waters As You" feels slightly dated over fifteen years after the initial release of the album, but it barely dulls the overall effect of the epic track while the title track of "Disintegration" pops with a more post-punk rhythm section and an almost hypnotic progression.
Yet, after all that came before, the last two tracks of the album close things with such a graceful swoop that hearing newer material from The Cure makes me cringe even more. "Homesick" intertwines a great piano and guitar melodies before drifting off into an almost space rock section and finally back into a lamenting finale while "Untitled" closes the album with more gorgeous guitars and one of my favorite vocal melodies ever from Smith. After the more downcast feel of the majority of the album, the track is like soft rays of light shining through the dark clouds and giving a bit of hope (despite the lyrics). As mentioned above, there are times when the production and instrumentation of the album sounds a bit dated, but the songs themselves still hold up remarkabley well, especially considering all the bands who have come since then and done similar things. In addition to being one of the albums that helped me get through high-school, it still sounds good to me 15 years later.