My parents split up when I was seven and I lived, until the age of seventeen, between three houses, spending alternate weeks in each with each parent- one week with my mother when she lived with my maternal grandparents and, then, with her alone when she moved into her house in the year I started secondary school and, a week with my dad in the house I’d grown up in, where I lived until I was twenty-two and, for the most part, considered my primary home, where my paternal grandparents and aunt also lived. Being an only child with one close friend during each segment of my academic life- and fewer during school holidays, I can tell you- and being confined to my own company throughout my upbringing meant that music was one of few positive constants in my life and, the only thing that separated me from complete isolation and loneliness. I did spend a lot of time around adults, but, as you can imagine, it is not stringently where a young child or adolescent wants to be or, frankly, should be. I also had my favourite shows on Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon and learned a lot from them, all of which is still invaluable to me, but the songs, lyrics and artists I loved were much closer to me and the way that I experienced and, still experience them is hypnotic, wildly colourful and proudly and painfully personal. My taste then was as widely-influenced as it is now and I don’t shun or deny anything that ever makes or made me feel good, or that has had a lasting emotional effect on me. The bulk of my emotional upbringing certainly came from tv and music, which is something I can say. My relationship with this album is tightly entwined with these events in my life and, when you examine the circumstances that affected me and shaped who I am today, it is no surprise why this is. ‘Disintegration’ came to me as part of my personal pursuit into the music of The Cure and changed my life, which is truly no exaggeration.
I initially came across The Cure whilst trawling through the music channels on tv, as I used to do frequently after school and at weekends. VH1 used to show blocks of videos from a band or an artist for a period of half an hour to an hour, depending on the selection from and, indeed, the breadth of their back-catalogue and, it was through one of these that I had my first Cure encounter. The first video I think I saw, certainly the one that made the greatest impression on me, was ‘Just Like Heaven’- I know the recording I made of the show’s repeat exists on a VHS somewhere, it is more than likely labelled with a description of its content. Visually, it was everything I felt inside and saw through my eyes and the music felt like floating in a sea of bliss. To this day, I have a very close and evocative relationship with the sound of synthesisers, which ties into my love of the Eighties and its music overall, but, at this point, I digress. I was mesmerised. Those deep, velvety liquid-purples and dreamy night-time blues, set to the sparkling sights of the stars and moonlight reflected in water and the shimmering sounds of synths drew up the palette and soundscape of my adolescence and I would not trade a single moment with them for anything.
The first Cure CD I bought was the iconic ‘Greatest Hits’ with the silver and indigo cover, the image of Robert Smith’s fingers accented with stars on the front, from the Virgin Megastore next to Camden tube station. It was 2002 and the disc was a fairly new and popular release at the time and, I remember it being on a stand right at the front of the store, framed between the doors like a glittering prize. When I was younger and, I suppose, now, to some degree, I bought singular albums according to the number of songs on them that I liked, which I gleaned from greatest hits discs, so this is what led me to find ‘Disintegration’ as my first full Cure album, despite ‘Just Like Heaven’ not being on it (which is why I bought ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ later on and ‘Wish’ for ‘Friday, I’m In Love’). I slowly built up my Cure collection and, in tow, my obsession for them around these albums, ‘The Head On The Door’ and ‘Faith’ also featuring, more prominently than the latter two, but ‘Disintegration’ remains, to this day, the one that has always been there.
I can’t remember exactly where I was when I first played it, what time of day it was or, indeed, the season, which is quite unusual for me, but I do know that I was, at once, swept into a dream in which I wanted to float forever. Poignant not only was the year in which the album was released, the year of my birth, which heightened its significance and relevance to me, but it kept me incredibly anchored amid the feelings of displacement and detachment I so often felt, due to my personal circumstances and, the reactions of people towards me because of them. How ironic is it that an album named ‘Disintegration’, so descriptive of the events in my life, was the item that made me feel more whole and held together my spirit when everything else was separating and continuously tearing itself apart? I listened to it the most at my mother’s house as, at the time, it was the place where I felt most alone. Unknown to my mom, I used to keep the radio on all night on a low volume, irrespective of a school or a weekend night, a combined cassette, CD and radio player that was quite stout and painted a silver-grey, very similar to the one I had at my dad’s, which, I guess, was quite a popular style for the device at that time in the early-Noughties. I would fall asleep to the smooth classics of ‘Late-Night Love’ on Heart FM and, later on in my teens, ‘Tim Shaw’s Asylum’ on Kerrang!. I remember a hilarious moment from the latter that has stayed with me to the present day- Tim Shaw queueing U2’s ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ and introducing it with the line, ‘the most difficult place to order a pizza’, as the opening bars played in the background. Amazing. ‘Disintegration’, when it found me, was one of only two albums that I played in this fashion overnight, the other not standing up to the same experience in any way, letting my subconscious absorb it on repeat throughout the night. It symbolises and embodies the late Autumn and early Wintertime to me, as this is when I would play it, awakening to numerous frosty mornings with the night’s darkness still engulfing the dawn and, to pale light creeping through the misted glass on weekends, images that are now very beautiful memories to me. This album felt like my only true companion, its lyrics still so resonant and relevant to me in my present life-stage and, recently, experiencing a revival of ‘Closedown’ and the full-length resplendence of ‘Pictures Of You’ earlier this year.
This album is in my blood, the manner through which a great part of me can be understood. I feel that, if my soul were to be translated to music, the way I feel inside, it would sound undoubtedly like ‘Disintegration’. For a small portion of my life, but not at all in diminished or insignificant effect, it quietened the arguments of those around me and steadied the turbulence and turmoil I was experiencing and, when I listen to it now, especially when I feel detached from myself and the things that comprise me, it reconnects me to myself through letting me feel as I did when I first heard it and recalling how it comforted me when nothing and nobody else would. The language of ‘Disintegration’ in the way it spoke and still speaks to me is one that only I can understand, it holds within it the fundamentals of who I am when I don’t seem to know myself and this innate comprehension is truly magical. One thing for sure is that I would not be a fraction of the person that I am without it; I wouldn’t recognise myself without it and, it brings me a very immersive kind of solace, like a warm wave gliding over me, to know that the thirteen-year-old girl that fell in love with The Cure still resides within me and that I can still feel her in all her vulnerable sensitivity. For anyone who knows me who would like to know me a little better through a glimpse of my core, I implore you, at least once, to listen to this album and experience it open-hearted and, to also find out what it unearths from within you.