By the time The Cure came to record their eighth studio album Disintegration, in late 1988, they were one of the UK’s biggest bands, and after the album’s huge successes, they would also go on to be one of the UK’s hottest musical exports. The dark, hallucinogenic style of Disintegration is to many their magnum opus, and featuring classics such as ‘Lovesong’, ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Pictures of You’ it’s not hard to see why.
The story goes that Smith turned 30 during the writing process for the follow up to 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, and was having something of an existential crisis. Wracked by hallucinogenic drug use and struggling with the trappings of fame, Smith, the band’s mastermind, was set on creating an “important” album, as he didn’t know what the future held for the band after that, and even suggested they might call it quits afterwards.
Depressed with the level of fame he’d cultivated over the 1980s, Smith’s reliance on drugs and sent him inwards, and in a 2004 interview with Rolling Stone, he admitted that being expected to be “larger than life” all the time really got to him.
Smith recalled: “I got really depressed, and I started doing drugs again – hallucinogenic drugs. When we were gonna make the album I decided I would be monk-like and not talk to anyone. It was a bit pretentious really, looking back, but I actually wanted an environment that was slightly unpleasant.”
Also feeling pressured by audiences to write follow-ups to the luscious pop of ‘Just Like Heaven’, the third single from Kiss Me, Smith decided to do a creative U-turn, and it proved to be a masterstroke.
Famously, ‘Lovesong‘ was written as a wedding present for Mary, Smith’s long term partner who he had just got married to, and he purposefully included it on the album to be romantic, even though he thought, and still thinks it is the “weakest song on there”.
The song went to number two in America and kept Janet Jackson off the chart, not bad for a band that had just taken their most introspective step. Ironically, although Smith had wanted Disintegration to go against the critical grain, it was actually lapped up by audiences, who had never heard something so beautiful yet haunting. He said: “I realised at this time that, despite my best efforts, we had actually become everything that I didn’t want us to become: a stadium rock band (laughs)”.
The typically witty Smith then offered some sage wisdom on Disintegration‘s standing in The Cure’s back catalogue. He revealed: “Most of the relationships within the band and outside of the band fell apart. Calling it Disintegration was kind of tempting fate, and fate retaliated. The family idea of the group really fell apart too after Disintegration. It was the end of the golden period”.
Smith is right, to fans and critics alike, Disintegration marks the end of the band’s most fruitful epoch. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, the band returned a year later with the remix album Mixed Up, and the single ‘Never Enough‘ makes a strong claim for being one of their best songs. Afterwards, The Cure would hit a new level of fame in the ’90s and cement themselves as one of the all-time greats.