When I first started this website, almost twenty years ago, I was an obscure part of a community of amateur music review websites. Some only lasted a while, while some like www.markprindle.com gained notoriety. But in hindsight, the best site to emerge from the movement was perhaps Scott Floman’s. Floman was a little older than most of the other writers, and was mature enough to treat the music with respect. He covered a broad swathe of rock and soul music, from Shuggie Otis and Frankie Valli to Vampire Weekend and D’Angelo.
Of course, websites are an ephemeral format, so Floman collated his site into an e-book. It’s a great reference work to browse through. At over 1,500 pages, it covers plenty of ground, and it’s lovingly written. As well as covering heavy hitters like Bowie and The Beatles, it also features artists that snobbier critics would overlook in this type of project, like Ratt and the Dave Matthews Band. As well as album reviews, the book ends with a series of lists, like “10 Supremely Underrated Rock Guitarists”, and Floman’s choices for his personal Rock and Soul Hall of Fame.
As a preview, here’s Floman’s review of one of his “Essential” albums – The Cure’s Disintegration.
Disintegration (Elektra ‘89) Rating: A
After trying out everything on Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Robert Smith decided to do the polar opposite on Disintegration, which maintains a singularly cohesive mood throughout. What both albums have in common is that this is another double album (on vinyl) that’s too long (p.s. this has been the case with every Cure album since), maybe even more so in this case since these songs all tread within the same style, with lush synthesizer washes, big doomy drumbeats, and layers and layers of gorgeously intertwining guitars meshing with Smith’s weepily intense vocal delivery. It’s a good thing that most of the coldly beautiful music here is so amazing, and in many ways Disintegration stands as the band’s masterpiece (albeit a flawed one), a brilliantly atmospheric, utterly mesmerizing mope rock landmark that’s perfect for a lazy day. These melodies are trance inducing, as the songs slowly take their own sweet time (it’s not uncommon for Smith’s vocals to enter only after along instrumental introduction), allowing their haunting yet soothing soundscapes to mysteriously swirl in mournful ways. Indeed, many of these songs crawl along well past the five-minute mark, but what songs! “Pictures Of You” is only one of my all-time favorites, with its hypnotic groove, gorgeously encircling guitars, and sad lyrics that portray an all-encompassing sense of loss. Call me a wimp, but more than once has this song reduced me to near tears, so sad is its tale and so perfect the musical accompaniment, while “Lovesong,” written by Smith as a wedding present to his wife, became a surprise #2 smash, despite sounding as moody and depressing as everything else surrounding it! The gorgeously sumptuous album opener “Plainsong,” the warmly atmospheric “Closedown,” the hooky “Lullaby,” the intensely rocking “Fascination Street” (another stunning single), the mysterious, haunting “Prayers For Rain,” and the funereal “The Same Deep Waters As You” (music to be played at 3A.M. or at a wake) are among the other wonderfully seductive tunes that compelled the South Park creators to famously proclaim this “the greatest album ever.” Such hyperbole aside, it does have some lulls, as its almost ambient reliance on atmosphere makes it a “mood album” that sometimes works better as background music than when listened to attentively. Still, complaining about an occasional lack of hooks and the album’s overly long length seems like nitpicking given the high overall quality of the music, as Robert Smith and company continue to produce major work. Though they’ve yet to be accorded the proper respect for which they are due, I for one have no problems in claiming that The Cure are a great band, and Smith himself felt that Disintegration “was the end of the golden period.” Note: This is supposedly a sequel of sorts to Pornography, but I find this addictively depressing album to be uniquely its own entity, even within The Cure’s singular catalogue.
If you’d like a copy, you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Story-Rock-Soul-Music-1960-2016-ebook/dp/B071JQ27WC/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8