For some reason, I dragged out a number of old Cure albums today and gave them a spin. The Cure is an extraordinarily inconsistent band in my opinion with the exception of their early (pre-The Top) work most of which I find compelling.
Later CDs never grabbed me though. The sole exception in Disintegration, and upon playing it again today I felt that it, too, had lost its magic. But as the record played on, I found my resistance to it slipping. Somewhere in the middle of Prayers For Rain I capitulated completely, and found myself wondering inwardly at what a great record this is.
Just why is difficult to pin down. Does it just wear you down with its unrelenting gloom until you simply have to sucumb? Perhaps there is something to this, but I think there is more. Robert Smith has never sung better than he does on this record, and his thin, whiny voice overcomes its limitations by using them to maximum expressive effect. At first, he seems merely theatrical but as song follows song, the theatre receeds and a starker, more personal, feel makes itself apparent.
Considering this is a band that has made the sparse, stark confessional its modus operandi from the very beginning, the fact that Smith is able to pull this off with such success on this particular record suggests that he was unusually in tune with some deeper, darker emotion.
What is true is that Disintegration stands out qualitatively far above the immediate preceeding and following Cure albums, and to date they have not matched it again. It is the only late - i.e. arena rock - manifestation of the band that makes much artistic sense to me, even as they were simultaneously achieving worldwide commercial success.
It's hard to imagine they will ever top it.