Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Ed Masley
03/10/2009 | Arizona Republic | | Feature
Not quite three years down the road from "Happy Hollow," a concept album where God-fearing Middle Americans search for meaning and redemption in a small town one character labels a "fundamentalist penitentiary," Tim Kasher of Cursive has turned his attentions to another fundamental life obsession - getting older.

Kasher's 34 now, sorting through society's demands on aging indie-rockers. And the result is another thought-provoking modern masterpiece, "Mama, I'm Swollen."

Here's Kasher on how it feels to grow up in a young man's game.

Question: Do you see this album as another concept record?

Answer: It doesn't have to be that. We kind of hold it together in a way that it can be that. And I do think of it as one character kind of going through these motions, but I feel like a lot of the songs work independently of each other, as far as what the topics are.

Q: Did something in particular inspire you to come up with that character and put him through those situations?

A: When I started it, the only thing I thought of that I wanted to write about was the 30-year-old experience. It's just my first time really writing an album in my 30s and what that means, what that entails, how the weight of social responsibility kind of comes heavier upon your shoulders.

Q: Are you starting to feel the pressure, that it's time to act your age, the way you sing on "Donkeys"?

A: I do recognize that, although I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. But something I love about doing what we're doing is that it is really youthful. I didn't realize when I was 20, that to be doing what we're doing, playing rock and roll essentially, in its broadest sense, really does give you this kind of leniency to stay young, which I would love to uphold for as long as I can. In that sense, I really embrace immaturity.

Q: One of my favorite lines on the album is, "I hate this damn enlightenment. We were better off as animals." What inspired that?

A: I don't know what that stemmed from, but it's definitely something that's been on my mind for a long time. I read some Cormac McCarthy while I was doing the record and it kind of seeped in more than I had any idea that it would. I really like his philosophy on humanity, or at least what my interpretation of his philosophy is. He's a pretty sinister writer. But that is probably one of the core lyrics that covers a lot of the album, as far as the idea of this character wishing things were a hell of a lot simpler.

Q: There was a review in Stereogum that called that song an "anti-intellectual think piece."

A: That sounds accurate enough. My closest friends and I got bitten by this need to know the truth. And I feel that in my 30s now, it's left me really cold. So somewhere in there is probably the core of what the album's about as well. I'm a big (proponent) of "the more you know, the less you believe." And the more we've learned about ourselves as human beings, the less we come to believe in anything, really, including concepts of love, even. We've certainly jacked up the concept of love to fulfill our needs in a monogamous society.

Q: Do you think you could have written these songs any earlier? Is it a distinctly "I've turned 30" album?

A: (Laughs) I don't think it is distinctly that. But I don't think I would have written it 10 years ago. I don't think I was this wholly obsessed with the topics that are on the record then. I definitely laugh at myself because I think I'm letting a midlife crisis hit me way too early, which suggests that I'll certainly die in my early 60s. I'm actually 34 right now. But this is the first time in my life where if I have some sort of ailment, then, the thought can cross my mind that I'm degenerating. My body is now degenerative. I don't even want to get into my 40s because I think I'll probably go insane.

Q: So you are thinking about death more now?

A: I'm just aware of it now and I never was before. So I'm just gonna leave it at that because I don't want it to become an obsession. For one, I think it's boring. When we're young, we obsess over sex, and when we get older, we obsess over death, and who am I to bust out of the status quo?
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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