this is the way we waste out lives, running
into problems and peak blinders,
only ever into the smell of things,
working for sundown and sunlight in morning,
there are no adults here only children,
children with no one to care for them,
planet earth is pure murder,
sideways glances toward the unknown known,
specious arguments and puerile intentions,
the lot of us will burn before we get to hell,
the lot of us are already burning,
from the inside waves of fire radiate,
the end is not nigh it is with us every minute
this is the way we waste out lives, running
this mens bathroom in the library
at smith college
has a condom dispenser
that is chill
it is getting cold again
it is october again
i need a partner to fuck in the stacks
i am getting turned on by the smell of slowly rotting paper
the dead white mens words are rotting in the stacks
if it pls you
lets concieve a spirit child
in the midsts of a disintegrating canon
don’t worry it won’t be a literal child
i have a condom
thank you smith college
Thunderbolting flashing fiction flights
of mind and brightness crawling up or rather
clawing, yes and creeping too, it’d scary
but it’s strangely on the way to something—
at least that’s how it seems but Lord, who knows—
wellness ought to be my goal I understand
but geez these feelings overtake me hard,
and oh, with me it’s all a lot of feelings,
I’d bore myself to tears if I weren’t crying
already, doomed and therefore naught to lose,
better burning out that fading out said Kurt Cobain,
before he shot himself in horse-smacked face,
poor old Kurt I think about him often,
I think about his mangled face in Hell,
torturing himself with not quite perfect music,
holding out forever for the record
the one that shows he’s not just rockstar trash
How my dreams burn off with morning fog,
and how they frighten more than waking life,
and how their lack of logic never rouses
one suspicious feeling, till it does,
and then the dream’s dismantled quick and good,
and how I think that waking life’s the same,
you’re gone from somewhere once you know its name,
a place is anywhere until it’s somewhere,
an act’s behavior till you call it wicked,
a faith’s religion till it’s superstition,
and love’s eternal till you say “I love you.”
What’s left for us when all the fog burns off,
when mystifying notions clear away,
and nothing’s left but bodies cold and naked,
when language turns to nonsense, and the mouth
no longer speaks but only, really, talks?
Is this is real world, without illusions?
Where nothing’s happening or ever does?
Is this enlightenment, could someone wise
and holy reassure me? If they did,
could I believe them? No, it’s surely best
to let the brain’s concentric bubbles burst,
and while this sterile desert won’t seem better,
remaining in illusion’s surely worse.
I wanted to submit this to HTML Giant, but they decided to shut down. So all you Tumblr people get it. You’re welcome.
1. The Cure are a weird band. They’re frequently labeled a goth band, and certainly Robert Smith’s trademark look is the archetype of the goth boy. But, with the exception of some earlier material like “Pornography”, they’re really just a moody pop group that drifted along a spectrum between atmospheric proto-shoegaze soundscapes and surprisingly upbeat pop singles.The standard goth voice, for a male singer, is a deadpan baritone, but Smith’s voice is nothing like that—it’s more like a pouty 13-year-old boy. He is never poutier than on Disintegration. Each of their albums has a different flavor and ratio of melody to gloom. Only the Cure could have followed an album called “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me” with an album called “Disintegration”.
2. These songs are long, wow they are long, and wow they are layered. In fact the only real brief, to the point pop song is the odd duck “Lovesong”, and it comes as a moment’s respite. Otherwise the songs are all unbearably long slogs through Robert Smith’s laborious struggle to—I don’t know what—perhaps something very banal, like a struggle to get up and turn off the light because he’s so depressed he just wants to sleep but he can’t fall asleep because the light is on but he’s too depressed to get up and turn it off so he just sits there in misery staring at the patterns in the stucco ceiling and imagining all of these cheesy keyboard sounds and gated drums and 10,000 guitar parts?
3. I try hard to forget that 311 ever covered “Lovesong” as a stoner pseudo-reggae snoozer, but sometimes I can’t. It hurts almost as much as actually listening to Disintegration, except in a bad way. It was one of those rare covers that actually makes you feel like the original band may not have been as good as you thought. Actually 311 may be the anti-Cure.
4. Art doesn’t always follow the life of the artist, but by all accounts, in the case of Disintegration, it did. The source of Robert Smith’s depression during the making of this album, which was ample, was—wait for it—that he had just turned 30. Wow. But it’s an important fact, because it highlights the narcissistic nature of the despair expressed on Disintegration. Despite the lyrics about lost love, it’s really only about not being young and sexy anymore. It’s funny that a bunch of teenagers projected their own sadness onto this album written by a dude who was 30 as if he was speaking for them. They didn’t even know, man.
5. I want to make the argument that Disintegration is actually one of the great psychedelic albums of all time. It’s a fact that Robert Smith was doing obscene amounts of acid while making the record—something which probably did not help his depression—and the album is a beautiful entry in the tradition of dark psychedelia. Whereas the Butthole Surfers expressed the horror and insane comedy of LSD, and Love expressed the sense of apocalyptic paranoia, the Cure expressed a melancholic side of the acid experience which is rarely talked about. Many people see God/The Meaning of Life/Their True Self yada yada yada when they take acid, but some people just see the profound pointlessness of everything. The walls are breathing but you know they really aren’t. The acid trip only highlights, only underscores the profound banality of everything. Here you are with this maximally expanded mind and it has only nothingness to take in. You laugh in anger at the Cosmic Joke the Universe really is, and when you come down, you lie in your bed just trying to sleep but you’re too depressed to turn the light off and—okay, we’ve already been down this road.
6. It is totally easy to get lost staring with your ears at the pretty, glassy, swirling patterns cast on the wall by this album’s soundscapes. Each song is like a single eyeliner-stained teardrop of a bassline that falls in an ocean of tears producing endless ripples in the form of umpteen keyboard and or guitar/parts.
7. What is Robert Smith talking about in these songs? Who gives a shit—you naturally project your own gloom onto them. The lyrics do not matter. I’ll probably discuss them a little along the way here, but they really don’t matter that much. Go and read them at some ad-infested lyric site, you’ll see they’re just what you thought they were—gloomy. Robert Smith’s lyrics have never really mattered. They are shitty romantic poetry of the sort Cure fans probably wrote reams of in high school. The songs are all about his voice, which is capable of every possible shade of whining known to science. Seriously, this dude has like an eight octave whining range. Few can compete with that. Few have tried. He communicates his meaning through his voice, through his endlessly cycling guitar lines, the eternally oscillating keyboards, the bass lines heavy with weeping. And the meaning is: wow life is so chilly and dark and foggy and love is a sad lie and fuck I’m 30.
8. The skipping guitar line is a popular move. It runs up your spine like pain from a phantom limb—the phantom limb of your lost lover. You remember it well. It sounds like that rippling pond, the cheap and easy metaphor for all kinds of heavy Big Picture sorta of things. Witness the power of the skipping guitar on a track like “Homesick”, skittering over the piano that forms the base of the track, skittering away like the water bug of your lost love across the lake’s meniscus. Then comes the distorted flange guitar, plucking its sad trios of notes—the flanger!! Robert Smith, you genius bastard, you have actually made the cheesiest effect—the flanger—work—God, my emotions are being flanged as I type, just thinking about it.
9. It’s all oscillations, all little spinning tops—all these songs are twirling patterns, loops of thought, vicious cycles of pain that in attempting to cure—lol get it?—cure themselves, only prove to dig themselves deeper, requiring an even greater cure. This vicious cycle is the reason Robert Smith continues to make Cure albums even though he looks awful at present with his typical goth makeup, and had already cemented his legacy as a pop icon forever with this very album.
10. George Harrison said he stopped taking acid when he first saw what it looked like under a microscope. He said it looked like so much rope. He didn’t want all that rope in his system. Robert Smith was like, hang me by that rope. And Disintegration the soundtrack to his hanging. His crime: being 30.
11. If all the songs feel the same, it’s because depression all feels the same. “Leaden paralysis”—slow-moving body—is actually a symptom of clinical depression. This record grows on you, but you kind of have to suffer through it. At first you can’t understand why these songs need to be so long, why they all need to have two minute intros. But you realize after a while that you’re meant to lose yourself in it more than really listen to it. It’s an album you kind of wander through like a dark forest. Why are you in the dark forest? Never mind, stop holding me to things.
12. Whenever I hear “Lullaby” I imagine Spider-man tormenting Robert Smith in some way. I know that’s not what he’s talking about but I don’t care. I imagine Robert Smith, suffering from insomnia because he’s coming down from the day’s acid trip, waking up in a state of sleep paralysis, and seeing Spiderman right above him on his ceiling, just staring with those big, cool-looking eyes. And Spider-man is whispering all these obscene threats because he has confused Robert Smith with one of his villains, the vampire Michael Morbius. Naturally Spider-man is wearing his black alien suit because this is after all the late 80’s and this is after all Robert Smith’s own fantasy. And all Robert Smith wants to do in this scenario is tell Spider-man he looks so much better in black. Frankly he is pleased that he’s been confused for a vampire. But all his face can manage is a look of terror. And in his insomniac fake-terror he composes this song “Lullaby” to get himself back to sleep.
13. “Fascination Street” has a cool groove but I can’t always sit through it. I kind of hate the chorus, where Smith seems to be as his whiniest—“Let’s MOVE to the beat like we KNOW that it’s over!”—no thanks, I’m over it. Also it contains this obscenely misogynistic couplet: “But if you open your mouth then I can’t be responsible/ For quite what goes in or to care what comes out”. Oh fuck you man, fuuuuuck you. I suppose this is a track about losing yourself in destructive, anonymous sexual escapades, and so meant to offend in this way, but the very doomed-ness of the whole enterprise makes it hard to listen to. It seems more ethical to take your depression out on yourself than some poor little groupie.
14. “Pictures of You” contains the lines “If only I’d thought of the right words/ I could’ve held on to your heart”. This repeats a theme Smith first explored on “Boys Don’t Cry”, where he starts off (dickishly) saying “I would say I’m sorry if I thought that it would change your mind”. In both cases, the speaker believes all too strongly in the power of words. In both cases he is depressed because he does not have that power over his lover—the disgusting power, apparently, to trick her into loving him. This is a good example about how male potency fantasies can take the seemingly paradoxical form of stated impotence. Men are altogether too obsessed with potency. We all know why you lost the girl, Robert: you’re a moody rock star egotist who drinks too much and takes too much acid. Don’t act like it was a failure to be poetic enough. So you can see why I say it’s better to ignore the lyrics on this record if you can manage it.
15. Once when my girlfriend was depressed I put on the song “Disintegration” and I said, do you feel like this? And she was like no, not at all, turn that off. And I was depressed that she couldn’t appreciate that amazing bass line. Fortunately I was able to bloodlet my depression by disappearing to my room and putting the song back on and staring at the ceiling and being like “wow, feelings.” My girlfriend cannot have this experience. She prefers early Cat Power for depressive music, which is fine I guess. I can’t just listen to this album whenever I want. It’s a deep mood album. Sometimes I actually hate this album. Once when I had “Fascination Street” on I thought to myself, “This song is stinky.”
16. It took me a while to get past the 80’s production on this record—gated drums, keyboard cheese, etc.—I’ve always hated 80’s pop production trends. My ideal production aesthetic is George Martin and the Beatles, especially on an album like “Revolver”: dry as a bone, no reverb, everything close and up-front in the mix. This album, and most of the 80’s, is in direct contradiction to that style. Everything sounds like it’s being performed in an empty warehouse. Maybe I couldn’t appreciate this until I realized that this empty warehouse was MY OWN SOUL. I think this occurred once when I was depressed unable to sleep, listening to “A Night Like This” from The Head on the Door on repeat. It was then that I knew I was ready for Disintegration.
17. As many jokes as I’ve been making about the melodramatic depression on this album, it is actually full of moments of beauty, even moments you could call exuberant. The melancholy of Disintegration has this tearful sense of beauty to it, in contrast to an album like Pornography, which was willfully—and thrillingly—ugly. It is the melancholy not of disgusted nihilism, but lysergic nostalgia. This is maybe the “comfort in being sad” that Kurt Cobain talked about. The opening track, “Plainsong” is a good example. It does has an almost religious vibe befitting its title—grandiose, shimmering, chiming like kaleidoscope colored light through a cathedral rose window—it actually opens with wind chimes. Is this Percy Shelly’s West Wind blowing in? Or is my head completely up my ass at this point? The strange bass line, ponderously landing at seemingly all the wrong times, produces a wonderful sense of disorientation, as if we are trudging dumbfounded through a haze of beauty lost—our memories overwhelming the world at present.
18. Romanticism has to turn darkness and despair, because it was always already despair, in love with its own sense of futility, its own insignificance in a pointless universe. And the great romantics are always marked by this gloom, as much as they hoped in a better world, supporting revolutions and so forth, they had to finally submit to a cruel pessimism. God is dead, man has inherited the earth, and it excites us, we’re high on it, until we realize we don’t know what the hell to do with it. The earth is too much to inherit. It’s a dreadful burden. As sublime as the romantics felt gazing at the glory of nature, it was only from the mountaintops. Get closer, pull out the microscope, and it’s horrifying. Deadly viruses kill thousands at a clip. Tsunamis sink cities. Humans create beautiful art, but their favorite art is that of war. And you take six hits of acid and kiss god, but then you come down and remember there’s no god, you have no girlfriend, and you’re about to turn 30. Romanticism has to turn goth. There’s no way around it. It is the torrid affair with life that ends in a devastating breakup.
19. Can we talk about these bass lines? Holy shit, they’re all AMAZING. Is there any (white person) band who ever had better bass lines than the Cure as often? I recall the bass player from the Strokes saying he stole all his bass lines from the Cure. This is hardly a crime. You should plagiarize only from the best. No matter how many beautiful layers of guitar Robert Smith puts on a song, somehow he almost always seems to give the bass the best part. Is he really a frustrated bassist? Who the fuck would be a frustrated bassist? Maybe it’s just that the bass, being low-toned and inclined to hide in the darkness at the back of the stage, is the most goth instrument—barring of course the out-of-tune pipe organ at an abandoned church. But those are a lot harder to bring on tour.
20. A lot of emo bands love the Cure, but the Cure are totally not emo. It’s important that we make this distinction because the word emo is frequently used to describe everything sad. Emo is descended from hardcore—specifically DC hardcore—and all true emo has some kind of hardcore roots—otherwise it’s just whiny punk-pop. “I’ve never been able to figure out what the hell emo is,” wrote Pitchfork reviewer Dan Killian in 2001. “Fugazi + Whining = Emo?” That’s exactly right. The melancholic synth-heavy pop of the 80’s, on the other hand, is descended from post-punk and new wave. It is intriguing, however, to note the parallel development of these dark, romantic strains from their respective sources, both of which were quite anti-romantic. It’s as if the denial of tender feelings that characterized the artsy and/or angry “too cool for school” punk/hardcore attitude produced a pent-up flood of emotion that had to break eventually.
21. “Lovesong” really is such a tremendous fucking song. We should have sent it out with the Voyager probe. The slide guitar is sublime, the bass line godly. Like Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” it manages to be totally creepy and totally romantic at the same time. Even as Smith sings his lyrics about feeling whole again when he’s with his lover, he doesn’t sound happy, and neither does the music. Given that all the rest of the songs on this album are about a lost relationship, you can’t help but wonder if the implication here is that he’s only dreaming. After all, he’s not singing, like Tiffany, “I think we’re alone now”—he’s reflecting on how he feels when he’s with her—which means that right now they’re apart. In that sense, this really is the darkest moment on the whole album—a total descent into delusion.
22. It’s worth noting the unique strain of melancholy here. Compare this album to something like Elliott Smith. The sadness in Elliott Smith is more tense, more paranoid, less accepting of itself. There’s a discomforted wakefulness to it, whether it’s the manically precise fingerpicking of early songs like “Angeles” or the grandiose later material, such as the explosive middle section of “Sweet Adeline”. There’s a manic side to it, a restless side. Robert Smith, on the other hand, is sleepy and dreamy, even when he’s happy. Despite all the gloom, one can’t really imagine Robert Smith ever committing suicide—he wears his melancholy like he wears his eyeliner. Which isn’t to say that he wasn’t genuinely depressed, but that, perhaps—and I understand I’m getting into armchair psychology territory here—that he was actually more successful at emotional catharsis through music than Elliott Smith.
23. I should say something about the cover. It is very silly. This is Robert Smith’s brain on drugs. “Let’s do a picture of my spooky white face in a flowery psychedelic nebula,” he probably said, and the other guys were like, “whatever man.”
24. The charming, relatively upbeat little chord organ that opens the final, untitled track feels like the depression lifting. The lyrics are still pretty hopeless, but the music suggests other things—well it’s over, I’m 30, what the hell am I gonna do about it. Indeed.
25. There is an early episode of “South Park” where an evil Barbara Streisand monster is defeated by Robert Smith from the Cure. As he’s walking off into the sunset, Kyle shouts “Disintegation is the best album ever!”. This demands that we imagine the young Trey Parker as a sullen teenager, zoning out in his bedroom, the album’s title track blasting on cheap stereo speakers, staring at the patterns in his stucco ceiling and being like “wow, feelings.” This profoundly unsentimental libertarian satirist and fart joke impresario—as a teenager, a huge Cure fan. It makes perfect sense.
— Sarah Gamble (via alterities)
These fleeting fireflies of fall are far too dear
for one who’s undeserving of the gift
of golden light and flaming leaves, I’m not
sure I can bear it anymore, I’m not
sure that’s I’m allowed to taste the calmly
cooling air, I’m not sure I can stand
the lovely looming chill of summer giving up
its ghosts, the sighing planet earth, oh no,
I’m too cruel a thing to see this beauty,
my eyes too base a pair of instruments, too stained,
my heart, it swells, and then condemns me,
Lord, bring the barren stripped and endless winter,
its hopelessness will give my anxious heart some peace—
1. All bipolar people experience ecstatic highs for extended periods that are better than any drug and make them super charismatic and productive.
Wrong. For some people, the “manic” side of bipolar is experienced as an extended period of restless anxiety, rumination, and paranoia, and it is more likely to be unproductive. It really depends on how the non-ill personality of the individual interacts with the effects of the illness. Many people do not enjoy having a lot of energy—it makes them nervous, not stoked—and their manias are more likely to be dysphoric.
It’s similar to the way marijuana affects people differently. Two people can smoke the same amount of of the same strain of weed, and one is giddy and laughing and the other is overwhelmed with paranoia.
Mania does not, fundamentally, feel good. It may seem to, but as it progresses it becomes increasingly terrifying. It is not true happiness. It is really another kind of depression. Even in the most expansive, grandiose, infectiously jazzed manic person, there’s always a sense of desperation and “get me off thing” nervousness, as anyone who’s been held in the strange psychic grip of such a person can attest. Dr. Kay Jamison, an expert on the disorder, notes in her memoir “A Unquiet Mind” that early euphoric manias generally give way, as the untreated disorder progresses, to entirely dysphoric manias.
2. Mania is being super stoked and depression is being super sad.
Wrong. Although the mood shifts in bipolar do often involve feelings of euphoria and melancholy, respectively, the key factor is not actually mood but energy level—in mania it is too high (not enough sleep, mind racing, fidgety body), and in depression it is too low (too much sleep, sluggish body, difficulty even forming thoughts).
3. Many artists are bipolar and this is where they get their talent from.
Wrong. This is as specious as suggesting drugs “make people more creative”—which can easily be disproven by reading any college essay written at 3 a.m. on Adderal. Again, it depends on how the skills and abilities you already have or have developed interact with the mood changes. Speed, which produces a similar experience in some respects to bipolar mania, is only going to help you write well if you can already write well—all it really does is help you write a LOT. Many of the most notoriously bipolar artists actually weren’t able to get much work done at all when their illness was acutely active—only when it was in remission. Van Gogh, for instance, was not painting during his manias—he was getting drunk, ranting about God in the streets, fucking questionable prostitutes, starting drama with Gauguin, cutting his earlobes off to impress ladies, etc. Most good artistic work of any kind requires multiple revisions and pruning, which manic people don’t have the patience, usually, to bother with. Manic creativity is more about quantity than quality.
There are plenty of emotionally stable artists, just as there are plenty of ethical businessmen, whatever the stereotypes about both may be. Art isn’t just about emotion.
4. Bipolar people just need mood-stabilizing drugs, and then they’ll be fine.
This is probably never the case. Bipolar is a biological brain disorder, but because it involves the mind—whatever the mind actually is—it can never be as simple as “chemical maintenance.” It’s inevitable that one has developed a relationship with the disorder that is analogous to an abusive relationship with another person. The experiences of bipolar disorder are largely traumatic, and need to be sorted out in therapy like any other traumas.
5. Bipolar disproportionately affects upper class people, highly intelligent people, and “high achievers”.
This is a foolish stereotype that is probably produced by the fact that we inevitably hear more about the sort of bipolar people who can afford treatment and have the intelligence and means to write memoirs of their experiences. Not everyone with bipolar, let alone everyone without it, is as clever as Stephen Frost or Brian Wilson. Of course we only know publicly, for the most part, about celebrities with the disorder, who are by definition high achievers.
But plenty of bipolar people are poor, whether financially or intellectually, and simply can’t afford treatment, or don’t have educational access, support systems, or insight enough to realize they need it. These people, if their illnesses are severe enough, are more likely to end up in jail than than mental wards, for a host of systemic reasons, and more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs than prescription medications they can’t afford. The common bipolar narrative is not that of a high-achieving genius whose brilliant career was almost ruined by madness, but of a hopeless, miserable person whose life never even got off the ground.
Rich bipolar people can afford to pay off the obscene debt they’ve racked up in their manias—poor people aren’t so fortunate. It’s the same with intelligence—a smart bipolar who’s useful to society may be able to keep his job—he may even have paid sick leave for extended periods—but the Chicken Shack is not going to be so friendly—they don’t want to deal with you nutcase antics and weeks of sick calls for depression. They have chicken to fry.
Not everyone reacts to mania by getting more involved in their work, or making contacts, etc. Some just binge on sex or drugs and the whole unseemly side of life. Some hurl torrents of abuse at their loved ones in their confusion. Some waste hours writing incomprehensible “novels” or terrible poetry, some construct delusional theories or inventions and try to send them to the Patent Office or “alert the press” about them. The proportion of bipolars whose manias are truly productive is relatively low.
An intelligent, well-spoken, socially adept person, when manic, can be a blast, but a less clever, cruder, socially awkward person, when manic, can be obnoxious, insulting and totally draining. He might organize wild adventures for himself and his friends, or he may just have you on the phone for hours going on about his latest “realizations”.
For the most part, the outcome of untreated bipolar is a not “fragile genius” but lot of broken relationships and a lot of wasted time.
— Slavoj Zizek