The stylistic changes, the shifting lineups, the psilocybin and emptied liquor cabinets: Few acts had a more helter-skelter ’80s than the Cure. To trace a path from 1980’s Boys Don’t Cry up to 1987’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me is to traverse punky perkiness, black-hearted resignation, foulest bile, insouciant psychedelia, and eyelash-batting pop. But it all comes to a head with 1989’sDisintegration—a sprawling double album that boils down all the Cure’s complexities into two contrasting shades of bittersweet.
Robert Smith’s love songs have never been as direct as “Lovesong,” a synth ballad as plain-spoken as a note left on a pillow, nor as evocative as “Plainsong,” a character study written with Raymond Carver’s sense of focus. If the album’s first half epitomizes the band’s unique fusion of melancholy and whimsy, the second half delves into their soul-scouring depths with surging guitars, storm-tossed rhythms, and Smith’s most desperate wails. “Fascination Street” and “Prayers for Rain” draw from the dirge-like moods of their early-’80s work while blowing that feeling up to acid-drenched proportions; like everything on the album, these two songs are intractable, improbable beasts, the kinds of echo-soaked anthems that made the Cure the decade’s unlikeliest alt-rock heroes. –Philip Sherburne / Pitchfork.com
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