Reviews — May 24, 2010 at 11:08 am

Review: The Cure’s ‘Disintegration: Deluxe Edition’ expanded 3CD reissue

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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12 Comments

  1. i will enjoy every note on these discs…cant wait!

  2. Awesome! Can’t wait until the 8th!

  3. This is the reissue I have been waiting for. Seventeen Seconds, Faith and Pornography still fight for the second on my list, but Disintigration was so majestic, that I have to say it is my favorite Cure record.

  4. Excellent review. Although I can’t say the album’s remaster is a big improvement…

  5. @ Matt So you’ve already heard the reissue Matt? On some good audio kit? Well your lucky anyway, cheers.

  6. @ Edo Yes, I’ve been listening to it a lot. It really does not sound that much different to the original, only louder. The “muddiness” if you will is still there. The second disc is very nice.

    I was expecting this remaster to be in the same vein as the “Kiss Me” one, which was an obvious improvement on the original CD release.

  7. The remastering isn’t as noticeable as it was on the Seventeen Seconds reissue, but it is still nice to have the improvement.

  8. @ Edo Yes, I’ve been listening to it a lot. It really does not sound that much different to the original, only louder. The “muddiness” if you will is still there. The second disc is very nice.

    I was expecting this remaster to be in the same vein as the “Kiss Me” one, which was an obvious improvement on the original CD release.

  9. The digital remastering is much better than the three previous Cure remasters which focused on a somewhat harsh and unforgiving treble.

    There is absolutely no sense of listening fatigue with the Disintegration remaster. Surprisingly, the sound quality isn’t much different from the original release. Other than a noticeable bass boost and cleaner vocals, you’d be hard pressed to tell a difference between the remaster and the original on a good system. The presentation resembles that of the work Chris Blair did on the first four Cure reissues. To be honest, I like the fact that Robert and Kevin didn’t mess around with adjusting the sound and mainly kept it in the same vein as the original release.

    While the bonus disc is nice, I can’t say that I’ll be listening to it much again. Instead of releasing Join the Dots, Robert and company should have included remastered versions of the respective album’s b-sides on its bonus disc. I still find the home and studio demos a waste of space, and some of the quality of these demos leaves a lot to be desired. From what I remember, I think there are three unreleased songs on the bonus disc that are worth listening to. The alternative version of Babble is quite nice too.

    As for Entreat Plus, I skimmed through most of the tracks and I agree with everyone who’s been complaining about the mix. The drums sound too flat and lifeless, and the mix does NOT represent what The Cure sounded like during the Prayer Tour. It’s like Robert was trying to make Entreat Plus sound like 2009 Cure. Bad idea Robert, don’t mess around with history.

    Stick with the Live in Dallas copy off of the Disintegration website. It captures the sound of the band during that period.

  10. Great album…I should have prefered that the add. disc was for the b-sides and mixes (exam. Pictures of you [long version]used for the video)from the album instead of a bunch of demos. Can’t wait for the BBC recordings and In Orange DVD.

  11. “..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?”

    > absolutely agree with this. I have a bootleg of the last of the 3 Wembley dates on the Prayer tour – which was by far the best night (they gave it their all – there was an unsaid understanding that it might be their last ever performance). Outstanding songs that night in my opinion were: ‘Plainsong’, ‘Pictures of You’, ‘The Drowning Man’ and ‘Prayers for Rain’, plus songs in the final encore – ‘Fire in Cairo’, ‘3 Imaginery Boys’ -which merged straight into ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. Unfortunately, the rendition of ‘Untitled’ that night was not so great, which always made me think that the songs on the live album ‘Entreat’ were an amalgamation of live songs from each of the 3 nights.

  12. Jason Cooper sucks!

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