The Cure, 'Disintegration' (cropped)

ARTIST: The Cure
ALBUM: Disintegration: Deluxe Edition
LABEL: Rhino/Universal
RELEASE DATES: Europe and “rest of the world” 3CD/2LP/digital on May 24; North America digital on May 25; North America 3CD/2LP on June 8

CONTENTS: The 3CD reissue includes a remastered edition of the original album, a disc with 20 home and studio demos and an expanded version of the Entreat live album. The 2LP version features the full album on vinyl for the first time. See complete tracklist here.

REVIEW: For the huge number of fans who discovered The Cure through the pop hits off 1985’s Head on the Door and 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, the release of the band’s eighth album, in May 1989, was something of a revelation: Disintegration found Robert Smith sliding back into the thematic darkness of the Pornography era, but with that record’s bleak, brittle sheen replaced by much-needed melody and musical depth.

The resulting album still stands as The Cure’s greatest achievement, a work that’s both filled with despair and heart-rending beauty — as if Smith, however fleetingly, finally struck the right balance between his twin musical personas. Now, 21 years later, Disintegration is the subject of a wildly anticipated three-disc retrospective that not only delivers a sonic upgrade to the original album, but offers before-and-after context via a disc’s worth of demos and outakes, and a full live airing of the record.

Continue reading the ‘Disintegration: Deluxe Edition’ review after the jump…

The heart of the set, of course, is the newly remastered album. While audiophiles no doubt will carp that it’s too loud and compressed, to these ears — listening on a slightly above-average stereo system — the sound is a vast and welcome improvement. Whereas the original Disintegration CD is quiet and a bit flat, the new edition sounds full and more dynamic, serving to magnify and deepen everything from “Plainsong’s” opening wash to the snarl of “Prayers for Rain” and the nimble, descending bassline that drives “Last Dance.” It’s certainly fitting, considering Smith wrote in the album’s original liner notes: “THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP.”

Disc 2 brings the real goldmine for fans: 20 previously unreleased demos and rough takes of each song on Disintegration, plus the album’s four studio B-sides and four more previously unreleased tracks (there also are 20 more demos, outtakes and live tracks posted online). Listening to the set progress from Smith’s solo home demos to full-band rehearsals to rough studio mixes with guide vocals, you can hear how some songs progressed (“Homesick” originally opened with electric guitar before morphing into that gorgeous piano/bass duet between Roger O’Donnell and Simon Gallup), while others were birthed almost fully formed (Smith’s solo home demo of “Fascination Street” contains most of the final track’s elements, including its killer bassline).

The set’s final disc is Entreat Plus, a fleshed-out version of the band’s 1991 live album that now includes all 12 of Disintegration’s tracks, in full album sequence (while the band played the full record on 1989’s Prayer Tour, it didn’t do so sequentially). Unlike Disintegration, the original Entreat wasn’t crying out for tinkering; its crystalline production made it one of the best-sounding live documents of that era. Smith, however, has remixed it, dampening the drums a bit and raising his vocals; it’s not tremendously different, and probably won’t be noticed without side-by-side comparisons. Still, the real missed opportunity here was not including one of the full Wembley Arena concerts from which these songs were taken. Perhaps a future release?

Taken together, these 44 tracks trace Disintegration’s evolution, from Smith’s bedroom demos to the recording studio to the now-remastered album and, finally, to the concert stage, where The Cure delivered a lean and forceful take on its masterpiece. That journey is perhaps best heard via the album’s mournful cornerstone, “The Same Deep Water As You,” which appears in three forms: the original studio version, an instrumental full-band demo featuring a gnarled guitar line, and an elegiac live take.

Admittedly, The Cure’s Disintegration: Deluxe Edition may be a bit much for casual fans — particularly wading through so many instrumental demos — but to anyone who has spent the past 21 years exploring the depths of this album, the new reissue is a marvel to hear.

GRADE: Original album, A+; Bonus material, A-

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