Monday, March 9, 2009

Review: Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen (* * * 1/2)

Cursive's new album, Mama, I'm Swollen, is probably an awkward place for me to get introduced to the Omaha-based indie band; from what I've been hearing, it's quite the departure from much of their earlier material. The album is a follow-up to their two critically acclaimed releases, 2006's Happy Hollow and 2003's The Ugly Organ, the latter of which was something of a breakthrough album for the group. While the new approach may alienate some fans, the dark, twisted songs of 'Mama' makes for a wildly uneven but consistently fascinating 40 minute ride of emo-tinged indie rock.

Singer/songwriter Tim Kasher lets his demons out all through the album's 10 tracks, relating bizarre, uncomfortably detailed narratives and slinging constant references of his all-too-certain ascent to hell. Some tracks are upbeat and snappy, like the fantastic pop-punk tune "From The Hips" and the horn-laden rocker "Caveman." Others feature a slower, more sinister sound, as the strangely dark "Let Me Up," and the samba-esque rhythm of "We're Going To Hell," which is more than a little creepy. Cursive explore some interesting territory on their new material, adding subtle embellishments to expand their basic guitar/drum/bass arrangements into some interesting moments, and while Kasher occasionally comes across as too heavy-handed, his melodies remain catchy and his songwriting sharp.

'Mama' is not an easy album to love. The whole project feels like the confession of a tortured soul, and even on the brighter musical moments, the lyrics frequently make the songs feel emotionally heavy. The effect can be oppressive when the album is consumed as a whole, but the best work on Mama, I'm Swollen makes it a record worth experiencing and spending the time to figure out.

Cursive on MySpace


Nikki said...

For years and years Cursive has been one of my favorite bands. I just picked this album up today and I can tell you I feel the same way, and I'm very familiar with their older stuff. It sucks that this is how you were introduced to them--try Happy Hollow or, better yet, The Ugly Organ for the REALLY good shit.

Not to say this album isn't good. But it seems difficult to love, like you said.