I was 13 years old in May 1989. I was finishing the 8th grade, which at that time was part of the high school in Rhinebeck. That’s a weird age to be, and I’m not the first person to recognize that fact, but every new teenager feels like they’re the first one to experience just so much angst. I think I was probably angst-ier than most, though, and that’s when the imaginary dividing line between me and the rest of the world was laid.
I’d already been a “weird” kid for a long time (um, about 13 years), but I hadn’t really found My People yet. That changed in 1989, when I started hanging out with skaters who were a little older than me…and the skaters’ skater friends, who were a lot older than me. They had cool hair and cool bedrooms, they rejected drugs and alcohol, they rejected gender stereotypes, they made art, and they listened to cool music. I’d found My People, obviously, and it was a relief.
The next thing I needed to do was find My Band. I wish I could say that I’m able to pinpoint the exact moment that happened, but I think it was more of a gradual slide. I’m sure I’d seen The Cure on 120 Minutes, but it wasn’t until my new friends—especially Seamus and Mike—started talking about their new album ALL THE TIME that I got curious (heheheh) enough to go to the Kingston mall and buy the cassette of Disintegration at Record World.
Things were different back then when it came to album releases. Everything came out on a Tuesday, but unless you spent time hanging out/talking to the clerks at a record store, you didn’t necessarily know something was out until you saw it in the racks or heard people talking about it.
I remember exactly how it smelled. Cassettes at that time had inserts that were folded-up a mile long—basically the entire contents of what would have been on the inner sleeve of the record reproduced on a series of panels. Wrap all of that up into a little plastic case, and the concentrated scent of the printing ink was heavenly. Man, I could huff cassette inserts all day long.
I loved the cover immediately. It looks like a watery well of flowers and decay and light…and Robert Smith. I would later learn that this was the work of Parched Art, a collaboration between Andy Vella and then-and-some-time Cure guitarist Porl (Pearl) Thompson. Something you discover as you’re enveloped by a life of being a Cure fan is that it’s all a family—real or imaginary—and the same names come up over and over, for decades. Even without the internet, you somehow know who Bill and Undy and Pap are even though they’re not in the band and those aren’t their names. But I digress.
So what does an album that smells good and looks perfect sound like? It sounds like a lush, light-dappled dive through a symphony of synths and drums and layered guitars and basslines that make you wish you could change your own heartbeat to be perfectly in sync with your eardrums.
The time that elapses between the kyoto chimes that open “Plainsong” to the first breath of lyrics is 2 minutes and 38 seconds. In that span of time—without the use of a single word—The Cure cement the tone of the entire album. It’s booming and full and dark and beautiful and painful, and you’re going to keep trying to reach for air until the last note. It’s dark and it looks like it’s rain, indeed. Thirty years on, I still can’t get through those 2 minutes and 38 seconds without bursting into tears. It’s a relief when Robert starts singing, because the pain can finally flow. The entire album is like a wound opening…and yes, I am acutely aware that I sound like a 13-year-old girl writing about this, and I’m pretty sure that just means I’m getting it right.
I found My Band in May 1989, and I never let go. The next 30 years brought trips across the country in all forms of transportation to see The Cure live and to meet up with Curefriends. It brought piles of records and CDs and singles and posters and t-shirts and magazine clippings and VIP passes and postcards and every imaginable type of ephemera, all to be carefully stored in special boxes to be protected and saved forever. So much of my life has revolved around The Cure in ways I can’t fully articulate. They were and are the root cause of so many decisions I’ve made and paths I’ve chosen over others. They are why I look the way I do. They are why I love the way I do.
Two months ago, The Cure were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Last month, Robert Smith turned 60. This month, Disintegration turns 30. It’s hard to get my head around these things! The RaRHoF induction is particularly weird—it’s a strange kind of validation that I impulsively want to reject, but that I also feel really proud of. The Cure had already been around for over a decade when I found them, but being their fan has always felt a little bit like a secret club. It still does. And Disintegration is still the best album ever.
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP