Reviews

Happy Hollow

Author: Mike Daniel
11/28/2006 | Dallas Morning News | www.dallasnews.com | Live Show Preview
The Omaha, Neb., quartet prides itself on scrawling sprawling indie-rock signatures of songs that alternatively appear elegant, scribbly and unreadable. It's taken a thicker, more cohesive approach on each album, just as a grade-schooler adopts an individual flair to writing longhand as time goes by. Of the scads of acts that have emerged from Omaha's Saddle Creek posse, Cursive is debatably the most sophisticated, indulgent and free flowing.

And it attracts the most diverse hipster audiences, a fact that frontman Tim Kasher reveled in during the band's 90-minute concert Sunday in the Gypsy Tea Room's Ballroom. "We end up with a bunch of weird people who don't know how to hang out with each other," he said after jabbing at an overexcited male who wanted to mosh more than mingle with the 350 or so in the house.

Only thing is, that dude wasn't too far out of water.

At its essence, Cursive's music is emo with punk influences. That anchor is especially evident in its live show, even with a grungy three-man horn section and a disarmingly bored-looking cellist-keyboardist onstage. In that respect its sonic handwriting rarely leaps over columns and lines, though within those margins the band's script is all over the place, kind of like if Fall Out Boy had collectively discovered free jazz.

The band peppered its taut and strenuous set the second-to-last stop on a marathon nine-week, 48-stop U.S. tour with plenty of old material that reinforced those emo roots. Tunes such as "Martyr" and "Making Friends and Acquaintances" (both off of 2000's Domestica, which is essentially a divorce-recovery record for Mr. Kasher) prompted physicality from fellow core members Matt Maginn (bass), Ted Stevens (guitar) and Clint Schnase (drums).

But with little exception (the raucous, whippy solo break on "Martyr" being one), its activity level didn't measure up to a normal emo act, almost as if it chose not to expend the energy lest it lost its rep as the Emo Band With Indie Clout. Fortunately, the complex songs that it performed off its latest CD, Happy Hollow, rubber-stamped that title; "Hymns for the Heathen" and "Big Bang," which starts with a so-screamo triple beat punctuated by a hyper-dissonant chord, highlighted those selections.

The primary opener was to be the Cops, but former Sunny Day Real Estate head Jeremy Enigk switched places with it because his sparse (for him) new showcase CD, World Waits, is gathering heaps of notice. That's no wonder: Mr. Enigk humbly delivered a charismatic set of songs all by his lonesome and was urged to encore by the crowd (he did, with a searing and damp version of John Lennon's "Mother").
Happy Hollow

Happy Hollow

LP / CD / MP3