“[On Disintegration] they thought I was being 'willfully obscure', which was an actual quote from the letter [received from the band’s label at the time, Elektra]. Ever since then I’ve realized that record companies don't have a fucking clue what The Cure does and what The Cure means."
- Robert Smith, from the book Never Enough: The Story of the Cure by Jeff Apter
Twenty (and some change) years later we know that The Cure’s label bosses were indeed wrong; Disintegration is celebrating its 20th anniversary (a year late actually – the album was released in May 1989) with the release of a remastered 3-CD deluxe edition and remastered 2LP. Today, the album remains in the unique position of being both widely considered the group’s masterpiece among fans as well as their most commercially successful LP (containing their biggest US hit, “Love Song," which peaked at #2 on the Billboard chart).
There haven’t been a multitude of complaints over the years about the mastering of the album, so no surprise here that the main disc is just a bit louder than the original. The real appeal of the 3-CD set is the bonus material…and there is a lot of it! The second disc of rarities is compiled by Robert Smith himself (who was the only original member left in the band by the time Disintegration was released --Lol Tolhurst having been booted by group consensus before its completion) and is largely made up of his instrumental home demos and band rehearsals for the album. It seems like a superfan-only venture with these lo-fi takes sans vocals, but these tracks reveal themselves to be a cohesive and seamless vision even in their infancy; The vocal-free band demo for the title track reveals an even more urgent forward flow than the album cut, with drops of synth gently shimmering in an ocean of flanged-out bass. “Esten,” a previously unissued demo of a never-before-released song (of which there are 4 here), is a bit more lively and feral than its siblings that eventually found a home on the album, perhaps a bit more like their 'willfully poppy' tracks from the Head on the Door-era. The absolute stand-out from the Rarities disc, however, is a solo home demo by Smith covering Wendy Waldman’s “Pirate Ships.” It is a gorgeous lilting sea shanty-like lullaby with ocean sound effects, harmonium and a lovely understated vocal from Smith. With the refrain of “Far away/Far away child,” the track could be culled from one of the several rumored-but-never-surfaced children’s albums Smith has allegedly recorded.
The third disc of the set is an expanded, remixed and remastered version of Entreat, a live mini-album recorded at Wembley Stadium in July ’89 and features renditions of songs culled from Disintegration. Entreat Plus (as it is titled here) is a very different beast when compared to the original version; the mixes on the 12 track Plus disc reveal a fatter sound with some studio spit-shine, whereas the 1990 8-song release’s mix had more of the brisk, airy quality one might expect from a live stadium show recording. The fan and the completist alike can happily hold onto both releases without any guilt.
The truly most exciting thing about this anniversary re-release is that the album finally has a proper vinyl edition. The original 1989 vinyl LP release had songs excised from the tracklisting supposedly in order to fit onto one LP, however the running time of the original press still clocked in well over the recommended and standard limit of 19 minutes per side, thus completely ruining the quality of the finished product. Rhino’s 2LP remaster, just released this week, wonderfully restores the full 12 track sequence and stretches the tracks over two LPs for remarkably improved sound.
For the überfans for whom 3 discs is just not enough, Smith has compiled a set of 20 "Alternative Rarities," featuring even more demos and alternate outtakes, that is streaming for free via a special website for the reissue. Now please, in celebration, enjoy all four of the album's singles in video form.
Amoeba Music Hollywood has quantity of both the Disintegration 3-Disc set and 2LP.