So the sequence of expanded Cure re-issues has finally reached Disintegration, for many the band’s defining album. As a long-term fan I never quite saw it that way; my favourite album was, and is, ‘the one no-one else likes’ (The Top). As time’s gone on, though, ‘the one that first got me into them’ has inevitably gained significance; in my case this was Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me but for many others around the world it was Disintegration.
That the album has been the band’s biggest seller is perhaps no surprise. I was fool enough to buy two vinyl copies at the time (one was a picture disc – I was very young), and a third copy came with my husband, so I was initially unconvinced that I needed this remaster.
There were other reasons: the second disc, of rarities gleaned from Robert Smith’s huge archive of demo, rehearsal and live performances, had been a fascinating but not often played element of previous ‘deluxe’ releases, and I also had multiple copies of the live third disc, Entreat. But four previously unreleased tracks on the latter conspired with the intrigue-value of the rarities, and the absence of two original album tracks from my vinyl copies, to get me clicking that tempting Amazon button.
Extra tracks aside, I can’t hear a huge difference in the remastered version of the album itself, wonderful though it is to hear it at this quality. I’m not the first person to wonder whether albums made within the CD age really justify a remaster, but this was The Cure’s first CD project and, being seen by many as their most important work, it was never going to be left out of their Deluxe series.
To me its keyboard sounds have long sounded dated, particularly the Bon Tempi-esque organ throughout Untitled. Perhaps the same could be said of some of the sound effects, the rainfall and those tinkling bells so redolent of Joy Division, though it would be self-defeating to criticise this similarity when the album’s rich bass lines also owe so much to Mr Hook. And although I don’t need to hear Lullaby, Pictures of You or probably Love Song ever again, the more muscular, assertive tracks, such as Fascination Street and Disintegration, sound triumphant and completely unjaded.
On disc two, Smith’s home demos of some of these same album tracks make a lie of my long-held insistence on the importance of the other band members. But it gets even better when the full-band pitches in – their demos included here sound so complex, so finished, I could listen to them all day.
Notable rarities on this disc include several previously unreleased songs that didn’t make the grade: the undeniably gothic No Heart, Esten – which really could be New Order, and Tomorrow Never Knows-doppelganger Delirious Night. The folkish overtones of Smith’s cover of Judy Collin’s Pirate Ships sit rather incongruously, but the disc is also important in bringing the era’s strong B-sides, including Babble, Out of Mind and Fear of Ghosts, to a wider audience.
The third disc, a remixed and extended version of the live ‘Entreat’ album recorded at Wembley in 1989, has been criticised by hard-core fans for changes to its characteristic snare sound and a general lack of clarity. I might not be muso enough to detect these issues, but it seems unlikely that those not already familiar with the album will find fault with it. Remixing notwithstanding, it surely provides undeniable evidence of The Cure’s ability to reproduce or even improve on their studio sound live (and at a real gig you get three hours of it).
For me, however, the truly transforming moment of this encyclopaedic release didn’t come on any of the three discs, but in the 20 further rarities released on the accompanying microsite (www.thecuredisintegration.com). The Same Deep Water as You ranks with the band’s epic wrist-slitter Faith in its beautiful, heart-rending melancholy (if you’re that way inclined), but it has never moved me more than in the, just-perceptibly slower, live Dallas version included here. The shift in pace somehow renders the song even more moving, yet its gorgeous, suffocating layers – barely distinguishable from the studio version – somehow combined with the azure Manchester sky I was listening under to create a bizarrely uplifting experience.
The alternative online mixes of B-sides 2 Late and Out of Mind are also worthy of mention, both arguably being better than the final versions, along with funk curiosity FuknNotFunk (which seems to be the blueprint for the band’s later foray into ‘baggy’ territory, Never Enough). Were all this not enough, a further 11 tracks from the Dallas show were made available online on the day of the album’s release, and are arguably superior to the remixed Entreat.
With the equivalent of five discs’-worth of new, re-mixed or re-mastered tracks to go at there’s no question that this re-release represents good value, although the online freebies are perhaps the most essential material. I certainly feel vindicated in my decision to buy yet another copy, and sure that those less tragically obsessed will also find plenty to detain them.