Upon Revisiting The Cure’s Disintegration and “Pictures of You”

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The Cure's Robert Smith

“Hopelessly drift in the eyes of the ghost again.”

Ever had those fleeting feelings that come and go so quickly, yet for those split second felt something powerful move through your soul; in your heart; across your mind’s eye? Wordsworth referred to it as a “sense sublime” and the “presence that disturbs me.” Shakespeare’s Juliet described it as “too much like the lightning which doth cease to be; ere one can say ‘it lightens’.” We don’t have much—if any—control over when these flashes will come. Many times it’s a scent hanging in the air or a particular musical chord. Other times it’s a lyric or the joyous presence that accompanies prayer. The prompts are as infinite as the human imagination itself. Realized in these moments is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling that is both fulfilling and emptying at the same time; that, perhaps, catches us most “human” as humanity was created: God’s image bearers.

I was aware of The Cure and even owned a record of theirs when I was in college, but it wasn’t until recently that I paid any attention to the haunting lyrics and recollecting sounds fans of theirs have been returning to for years.

Both “Pictures of You” and a track they simply dubbed [Untitled]—found on 1989’s Disintegration—conjure the same sense of emotional-void-yet-extreme-fulfillment described by Shakespeare and Wordsworth. In both songs the songwriter is struggling with just how a person is supposed to articulate this deep desire and pathos. “Pictures of You” wrestles with the veneers of life so much like Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” It asks, “So what is real?” and wonders aloud about the effects of time spent with our facades and veneers and what might be lost in the process:

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they’re real
I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures are
All I can feel (Pictures of You)

And then there’s the words … the words we wish we could get right; the words we wish we could have gotten right; the words that we wished we could summon; the words we wish we could will; the words we wish we could get back; the words we wish we could make believable; the words that could be exactly right.

If only I’d thought of the right words
I could have held on to your heart
If only I’d thought of the right words
I wouldn’t be breaking apart
All my pictures of you (Pictures of You)

hopelessly drift
in the eyes of the ghost again
down on my knees
and my hands in the air again
pushing my face in the memory of you again
but i never know if it’s real
never know how i wanted to feel
never quite said what i wanted to say to you
never quite managed the words to explain to you
never quite knew how to make them believable (Untitled)

Listening to Disintegration I’m reminded of our fallen-ness and our opportunities at redemption. I’m reminded of a paradise lost and a coming time when we won’t even need words let alone struggle to find just the right ones. It’s remarkably human in that this whole release, particularly these two songs, manage to capture the hope of recovering something lost—an “original glory,” if you will. Until then, however; until that coming time we’re left with our words and our pictures as a reminder of Eden, or what was lost, and what stands to be regained.

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2 thoughts on “Upon Revisiting The Cure’s Disintegration and “Pictures of You”

  1. Very interesting thoughts.

    I have struggled to assign words to what the Disintegration album touches in me. The only way I have come near to adequately expressing it is to say that its sounds and its words have a grand and eternal quality.

    Pictures of you isn’t a love song that makes you think of a person, or that causes you to merely become emotional over a lost love. While it may do those things, so might a thousand other good love songs. The difference lies in the fact that with Disintegration, your emotion or your sheer heartache is broader than a person, becoming entwined with larger questions of life and passing time.

    At 14, Chicago 17 made me think of girls and love.

    At 17, and for now 20 years, Disintegration makes me think of girls and love and life and passing time. It lets me put simple heart aches in a larger (admittedly more melodramatic) framework. Even if that is just feeding some residual teen emo state of mind. It took a group of good and unique musicians to pull it off.

    You’ll find such in poetry, constantly. But not so much in music.

    I look forward to reading more.

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