Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Erik Adams
03/21/2009 | Onion AV Club | www.avclub.com | Live Show Preview
When I woke up this morning, I sat on the edge of the bed for a few seconds, slumped over, and pressed my palms into my eyeballs like a character in an Alka-Seltzer commercial—or, more in line with my band itinerary yesterday, a character in a Cursive song. It's like my body doesn't want all the beer and meat that I've been shoving into for the last three days. It's having a similar reaction to standing for 14 hours a day.

Josh was all about eating our party up; my interests lay more in catching up with friends, using some of the (estimated) one million drink tickets provided by The Onion and Pabst, and catching Parenthetical Girls at 4. In the mean time, I caught The Thermals again, playing a set that totally won me over to its crunchy-and-catchy side. The band's new single, "Now We Can See," is still available for free download from this website and your friendly neighborhood Decider, and if you're anything like me (and I'd like to think you are), that "oh-way-oh-whoa-oh" refrain is going to be your new favorite earwig. Still, as I tweeted previously, singer-guitarist Hutch Harris looked too much like Stephen Malkmus from a distance to stop me from wishing he was singing "Rattled By The Rush."

I loved the shit out of Parenthetical Girls, which was a minority opinion, given the amount of blank stares, lack of bodies in the inside stage, and how Marc told me he thought it was "retarded." Whatevs, that mean's there's more bizarro chamber-pop for me. The band members left the chamber at home, opting for a more electronic setup that lent itself well to a set-closing cover of Orchestral Manoeuveres In The Dark's "Maids Of New Orleans." Lead Girl Zac Pennington is more of an heir to Bowie, Klaus Nomi, and Kevin Barnes than last year's excellent Entanglements led me to believe: the hand gestures, the moments of faux-conducting, abd his habit of testing how far the mic cord can go were oh-so-very glam. In contrast, the rest of the band members were completely stoic, even during the galloping "Four Words." Maybe Pennington's act is wearing thin, maybe SXSW is wearing on them, or most likely, they're robots. Robots that help make beautiful music.

(PS, nice work on the party, everyone. Thanks for being awesome!)

After a brief respite that involved Best Wurst (I favor the bratwurst) and resting my head on my desk for 30 minutes (OnionHQ needs more comfortable furniture) I was off to see if the Saddle Creek Records showcase at Radio Room could capture the spirit of 2002, those wild and halcyon days when a gallon of gasoline cost only a nickel, and five nickels could get you the latest Bright Eyes single on wax cylinder. Fine, it just feels like it's been a long time since Omaha was the new Seattle—though not as long as long ago as the period where Friday's showcase all-stars Devo and Metallica ruled the airwaves, which was right around the time Da Vinci completed The Last Supper. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Saddle Creek's spinning out any new Rilo Kiley's any time soon.

Cursive is still one of the label's marquee acts for good reason; Its The Ugly Organ ushered emo (I'm not going to euphemize it) through a very awkward period, and the follow-up, 2006's Happy Hollow, continued to expand the band's focus from matters of the heart and meta-commentary on songwriting to a questioning of all authority, earthbound and ethereal. Also, Cursive has threatened to break up so many times, they might as well include "Who Likes To Rock The Party" in its setlists, and its shows will forever carry the air of "This could be the last time, man."

And while Tim Kasher didn't act like a man playing his last show last night, he sang like one, releasing the bellows on tracks from The Ugly Organ, Happy Hollow, and the just-released Mama, I'm Swolen, and closing with a rip-roaring rendition of "The Martyr." The crowd ate it up, throwing fists in the air and yelling Kasher's lyrics back at him, getting extra-verbal during "Art Is Hard."

The rest of the night's lineup could learn a thing or two from Cursive—like dynamics. Aside from the math-y goofs of Beep Beep, everything during this Friday night at Radio Room either went to 11 (Sebastien Grainger and Dag For Dag) or was set for "chill" (O+S). The extreme volume of Grainger's set only served to make the former Death From Above 1979 singing drummer's (one, two, three, three singing drummers, ah ah ah) set all the more annoying. The most exciting part came when a SXSW volunteer told Grainger he had run out of time, to which Grainger responded by chucking his guitar at the engineer, and then giving it one good smash into the floor of the stage. Dumb reaction, from a purveyor of purposely dumb riff pop.

Stray Observations—
-Tim Kasher looks a little Rob Williams-esque with a beard. The similarity was heightened by a few scrunched-up, Robin Williams-esque facial expressions.
-Sebastien Grainger not only wears his stunner glasses at night (and inside), he also has a pair tattooed on his right bicep. On his right shoulder, the catchphrase of every Flintstones appliance: "It's a living."
-Grainger's fake subgenre, according to his MySpace: "fuck-rock." He sounds less terrible on MySpace.
-It's Saturday. I'm a little bit sad, but a little bit happy.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

LP / CD / MP3