Mama, I'm Swollen
Author: Greg Kot
Tim Kasher never met a subject too big or thorny to tackle head on, no matter how many cuts and bruises it left on his musical psyche. On Cursive's sixth studio album since 1995, the 34-year-old singer-guitarist (who also moonlights in the solo project the Good Life) struggles with the domestication of youth, otherwise known as adulthood. The music at times suggests a darkly humorous play, with jaunty declarations of "We're wearing out our heels on a road to hell," and lung-busting exorcisms about --- you guessed it --- exorcism: "I cast you out! I cast you out! I'll drag you out!" While wrestling with the devil and various inner demons, Kasher and his Omaha, Neb., quartet sound appropriately restless. The extremes between the weary ballads and blast-furnace rockers are wider than before, making for a potentially bumpy listen that suits the volatile subject matter. At times Kasher drowns in melodrama, especially on the title song. There is an unsettled, disquieting air hanging over "Mama" that prevents it from reaching the level of the band's best work, "Happy Hollow" (2006) and "The Ugly Organ" (2003). Whether the cause of all this unrest is yet another lineup shake-up or Kasher's fear (as expressed in "What Have I Done?") that he "spent the best years of my life waiting for the best years of my life," it's unclear. But there's also something invigorating about listening to an artist question everything that he is. "Mama, I'm Swollen" (Saddle Creek) is the soundtrack for that time in a person's life when everything is up for grabs.