Monday, June 14, 2010

'disintegration' at last

i've finally listened to enough of the extras on the 'disintegration' reissue to put my 'review' of it here. every review i've read has ragged on the extras- sort of written them off. i haven't listened to all of disc 2 (i'm listening to it right now) but what i'm hearing is incredibly fascinating- definitely more interesting than the extras on other cure reissues i've heard so far. i particularly liked the studio rough versions that are included- the shorter versions of the songs. 'delirious night' is a beautiful song and i am personally delighted to have 'pirate ships' in a format besides a crappy mp3. i even like a lot of the home demo versions. i'd have to say that the 'ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space' extras blow these extras out of the water- listening to those flows so beautifully i don't think anyone has ever done a better job of stringing their demos and different versions/mixes together in such a breathtaking way. it's setting the bar a bit high. this comes the closest. after reading so much about the making of 'disintegration'- both on roger o'donnell's memory blog about the time period (a very fascinating read/take- very refreshingly frank and heartfelt) and the liner notes included with this release- i think that these extras definitely do what they're supposed to- they capture the spirit and progression of how all of the disparate elements that make up the album came together over time. it's certainly a more engaging listen than the 'pornography' demos and such were. i particularly like the early band rehearsal recordings and the instrumental band demo versions of the records' tracks- robert smith compiled another twenty extra tracks and posted them on the 'disintegration' minisite, which is worth a visit (there's also an american version of 'entreat' which was recorded in dallas). i was thinking of compiling all of them and listening to the album as a purely instrumental piece.
'entreat plus'- i am shocked at how cavalier and dismissive reviewers have been of the third disc. 'entreat' was such a promising package that i always felt was severely lacking and 'entreat plus' is what i was most excited about hearing in the reissue. when i heard the bootleg recordings of the wembley shows (and i've heard all four nights) i was always confounded that they didn't just go ahead and put versions of every 'disintegration' song on 'entreat' as there were plenty of deeply profound readings of the new songs. it seemed odd to only put eight on of the twelve and to cut out 'plainsong' and 'the same deep water as you' just seemed silly. robert smith also very wisely took the time to remix the 'entreat' tracks. i know from hearing the bootlegs of these concerts that overdubbing cannot be ruled out, although the only track it appears to be on is 'prayers for rain' (the six-string bass part on the bootleg has a few glaring mistakes- total butterfingers moments). i suspect that the guitar solo on 'lovesong' on 'entreat plus' has been overdubbed as well since the only version of the song was on the final wembley night and ends on that out-of-key note that is in the solo for a split second (when it's hit quickly it's charming- as the ending note it's kind of painful). the vocal performances, i am most certain, were not overdubbed after the fact- they are the gritty, raw real deal. the bass on the original mixes always sounded very dry and dull to me and that problem has been fixed on this version. i read one review that claimed the set sounded more like an album recorded live in the studio than in front of 10,000 people. personally i was on pins and needles while i was listening to it the other day. i think it does a great job of capturing the energy of these songs performed in a live setting. fucking excellent!
of the demo and unreleased tracks the previously unissued songs ('noheart,' 'esten,' 'delirious night' and 'pirate ships') are sublime i have to say. i'm a bit sad that 'noheart' and 'esten' were never fleshed out and sung as i feel like they would've been beautiful songs. they almost sound like some of the better guitar-driven and sadder songs on 'wish.' 'delirious night' is easy to recognize as the odd one out and not a good candidate for an album track or even a b-side, but it's a surprisingly distinctive cure song- there really isn't another track like it. it sounds to me like what robert smith was going for with some of his latest singles on the last two cure albums- sadly on those he misses by miles, but this one is fantastic- extremely psychedelic. i love that robert smith is able to play the sitar so well and tastefully.
and now, the final piece of the puzzle- the remaster. did what was not really broken really need to be fixed? no, probably not, but the original does have some of the more negative hallmarks of the way that records were mastered in the 80's. it doesn't have as many as the original cd versions of the old albums, which sounded pitifully awful, but it has a few. it's definitely a bit overcompressed and at times a touch trebly. the last listen i took of it was surprisingly good and i was a bit worried that i would be disappointed with this newest remaster. i have very strong opinions of remasters- cds are put through the wringer when they are remastered these days. i'd say that the best mastering was done during the late 90's/early 00's. in the last handful of years they've gotten dreadful- wayyyy too loud, way too smooshed, completely tinny and robbed of nearly all of their analog character and life. i was worried that this would be the case with this remaster, but as it turns out robert smith didn't sacrifice all of the breathing room of the original version in order to raise the volume to ungodly heights (this is the most common mistake made in moder-day record mastering). the breathing room is crucial to these songs- what gives them their sense of space- and since it has not been sacrificed here in favor of higher volume i feel that this makes it a very good remaster. that said i've only listened to the cd through my stereo and not on my ipod yet. that, i always feel, is the truest test of a mastering or remastering job. on the whole i think that robert smith has done a great job remastering the old albums. that said, i've found that i prefer almost all of the old vinyl versions to the new cd versions. i didn't even bother buying the 'kiss me...' reissue mainly for this reason- i picked it up on vinyl and it sounded so perfect i couldn't even imagine bothering with a cd copy of it. that said the remaster sounds better than the first cd version (which was also the first cure cd i ever bought) which sounds abyssmal.
what can i say about the music that hasn't already been said- it's still one of my favourite records ever and probably will be until i die. it transports me back to so many places that are so far away now. each song is practically a bookmark for my life in some way. listening to the album as a whole piece is like an incredibly odyssey- it's so rich, cinematic and windswept. my favourite part of the album is from 'the same deep water as you' through the end of the album- the intensity just continues to build to that point and then 'the same deep water as you' takes you into its own very dense world until you don't remember where you are, 'disintegration' would be a perfectly fitting ending track with it's perfectly orchestrated catharsis that breaks into the bleary-eyed, hungover feeling of 'homesick,' then into 'untitled' which i've always equated with the point at which you're feeling better enough to walk home and as you're walking you're taken in by wistful thoughts and old memories very suddenly. it's contentment, sort of the musical equivalent of what kurt cobain coined- 'the comfort of being sad.' it's a very resigned and beautiful sadness that isn't debilitating or paralyzing- it's almost more liberating to embrace it and know that the fact that you'll never lose it can be a beautiful thing. if you don't know what i'm talking about here you've obviously never loved something that was just slightly out of your reach or that circumstance or luck has placed it in the 'what if...' pile. this doesn't have to be a bad thing- it almost makes it more unique and special and can be enriching and transformative. i love the way the album is structured so much that i think that i've almost used it as a template for most of the records that i've made- 'petals' is a good example of this- the flow of 'disintegration' was what i'd always had in mind for that album. it's a sad thing, but i almost feel like creating something in such a long form is almost a completely lost art these days- who's bold enough to bother with it any more? i felt the same about 'ladies and gentlemen...' as well, which is why it continues to be one of my favourite albums as well. i've always thought that the dark side of the vinyl resurgence is that it's also indicative of the fact that peoples' attention spans have shrunk to the point where they don't have time for full albums unless they're done with in under 45 minutes. this is an album that is worth investing in the 72 minutes it takes to unfold. i love that pitchfork gave it a perfect 10 for its score- if it came through their mailbox from an unsigned artist or even from pretty much any zipcode that wasn't brooklyn they would pan it flat on its ass for being too self-indulgent.
i would be buying the vinyl tomorrow if i didn't have a trip to go on on wednesday. if i have any money left over when i get back, you can be assured that i will be going out to buy it straightaway. we'll see, i guess. i feel very good about buying it for the eighth time. i haven't been this excited about much of anything for far too long. totally worth the wait! bravo, robert smith! no wonder all of the cure's output has paled in comparison- who could possibly follow something like this up?

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