Happy Birthday, Disintegration!


                 Goodbye ‘80’s.
            Goodbye high school.
            In one magnificent, epic album of a crumbling crescendo, my childhood is gone.
            We share the same birthday, Mr. Robert Smith. Who could have guessed you and Martin Gore and Bernard Sumner and the almighty Morrissey would mean so much to me during those messy, melancholy days where I’d changed schools not once or twice but three times.
            They say three times is the charm, but I sure didn’t feel like some kind of  charming man. Not then.
            In the midst of change and insecurities and moves and mood swings I clung to the music. The Cure was one of my four bands.
            And on this date twenty-five years ago, they released their masterpiece. Disintegration.
            I actually didn’t love it as much as their previous album.
            Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was the album that made me fall in love with The Cure. They weren’t instantly likable. Not to me. Robert Smith sounded like he was wailing, not singing. I couldn’t get it. They sounded sour and sad and overall miserable. But just like The Smiths, something eventually clicked. Something major. Something inside of me that opened like some kind of lock. And then I was not only sold but I was softened. My soul felt a little better. I understood and was moved and the music meant something.
            I got it.
            I’m an ‘80’s teen and I got it.
            And I embraced it.
            And so then Disintegration arrived.
            Epic. Grand. Sweeping. Romantic. Radiant.
            You can really look at the album as both a glorious goth album or as this beautiful love letter to the ’80’s.
            The music scene was about to change. Grunge was going to shake up everything. Music would never be so sweet and naieve again. Even gloomy rock like The Cure was sweet compared to Nirvana and Soundgarden.
            Oh, to hear Disintegration again.
            The glorious synths covering everything.
            The slow, steady build-up. Seven and eight minute-long songs with few lyrics.
            The sliding and sashaying guitars and drums. Strumming along. Like some kind of slow, steady marathon.
            They won’t ever make albums like this because this is the pinnacle of them.
            This was alternative in the ‘80’s.
            And yet.
            Yet.
            Suddenly, amidst the darkness and the dour mood, you have this sweet, uplifting, unlikely song.
            So simply called “Lovesong.”
            Years later, it still moves. It still means something. It’s real because it was created out of a real love.
            It’s not trying to be a love song. No. It really is a love song. Pure and simple.
            Done by The Cure, it’s magnificent.
            “Young again.”
            Ah.
            “Fun again.”
            Twenty-five years later, those words have even more meaning.
            What does love mean, anyway?
            What does always mean?
            “I will always love you.”
            Every song swells and soars. And each song has Robert Smith’s slightly shaky and unsure voice. The one we love, the one that sounds like none other. Dylan-esque. Gabriel-esque. Unique. Flawed and unforgettable.
            There’s such an abundance of songs here. The quirky one. The doom-and-gloom song. The love song (literally). The funky groove song.
            Things were building but like all artists who hit it big, Robert Smith and gang found their groove. And it was remarkable.
            The funny thing is he and the record label felt like he was committing career suicide at the time.
            The first song that sold me, that really, truly caught my attention was probably the darkest. A song that begins with the sound of a rainstorm. “The Same Deep Water As You.” Typical Travis Thrasher, I gravitated toward the darkest and most melancholy of the bunch.
            The song means as much to me now as it did twenty-five years ago.
            The guitars sound sorry. The synths sound sad. It’s all this beautiful, bewitching symphony of doom and gloom. But it’s also hopeful. Because it’s the sound I’ve heard in my head and my heart too many times.
            Echoes of loneliness and isolation. Shadows in the dark. Clenched and careful. Sighs of morning. And mourning.
            Kisses.
            Being together.
            Finally together. Finally.
            This sort of album can do wonders to some melancholy, romantic soul. Especially if they’re eighteen years old. And so it did.
            So it still does twenty-five years later.
            Is is any surprise I named a record store in a new YA series after the song “Fascination Street”? Of course not.
            The album builds and builds and then comes to the song it’s named after. Back then, I thought it was a bit too long, too much.
            Now the song “Disintegration” is just perfection. Breaking glass, breaking hearts, breaking soul.
            The back and forth. And back and forth. And back and forth.
            The music works now ‘cause I get it. It’s the relentlessness of life. Life that’s compressed with love and loss and longing. Life with its broken pieces scattered and shaken and spoken.
            “I miss the kiss of treachery,” Robert Smith sings.
            Poetry. Bewildering and brilliant. And oh so brutal.
            Cutting. Cryptic.
            The kisses. And aching. The stench. The sound. The bended knees. The letting go.
            Swirls and sounds and sweet darkness softly knocking on your psyche.
            “How the ending would be.”
            It’s an ending to a decade. And to a high school. And to a youth.
            This will always be the sound of my youth ending. My growing up. My teenage years shattered. My innocence blistered.
            “How the end always is.”
            And you wonder and think and believe that this is really truly how the end always is.
            So young and stupid and so utterly clueless about life so you cling onto these words. There are other words—better words—more hopeful words—more blessed words--but these are the ones you lean toward.
            A teenage boy. Lost a bit in a life. Whose to blame.
            “How the end always is.”
            This is the exclamation point to your teenage high school melancholy in-the-basement-beneath-your-parents years. 
            Soon it’ll just be pieces of memory while you’re coasting in college.
            A piece. Just this album of songs. Just someone’s rantings and ravings.
            Turned into the rush of an adult.
            Where those songs mean something. Where he can turn toward in the night. Where he can cast out and see the ripples of memory on the surface of the sea. Where the faces of yesterday blend in with the fires of today.
            When the worries of the world stretching onto the skin and shoulders and the soul no longer seize you and no longer break you down. Where they’re held at bay by another’s begging and pleading in song. When the suffering of another stifles the suffering of today.
            These songs aren’t just songs. They are memories with sound. They are pictures with words. They are films with four-minute-deadlines. They are infinite.
            The violins hum. The ending is near. The piano continues to pound. A heart played out on the minor keys. So majestic. So epic with so few words.
            So inspiring.
            The ending always comes as this simple, straight-forward sort of song. But endings are often like that, aren’t they?
            Endings usually play it safe. They usually go light and easy. They usually don’t bother to begin to tell of the angst and the drama that’s come before it.
            It’s simple enough to simply say goodbye.
            To smile and wave and nod and go your own way.
            “Never quite said what I wanted to say to you.”
            Yes.
            Another time undone.
            You’re leaving and it’s okay.
            The journey is everything. Right on.
            Happy birthday, Disintegration.
            Thank you, Robert Smith, for sharing your uncertainty with the rest of the world.
            This teen boy understood.
            This teen adult still understands.
            Life isn’t a box. It’s not an age. It’s not a mood. It’s not a season.            
            It’s a box full of colors that you continually paint.
            It’s a disc full of sounds you constantly play.
            It’s the pictures and the poems of yesterday. And little by little, they make more sense the older they get.
            Like wine, they only get better with time. 

Labels: , , , , , , ,