Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Sam Schachter
04/06/2009 | SUNY Purchase Brick | | Album Review
Tim Kasher, the wordsmith behind the rock band Cursive, may be one of the most remarkable and unrecognized lyricists of this generation. In Cursive's eighth studio release, "Mama, I'm Swollen," they deliver an explosive collection of songs about evolution, self-loathing, and what appears to be Kasher's favorite theme, broken relationships.

Throughout the album, Kasher makes heavy demands. On the fast-paced, bass-infused opening track, "In the Now," the singer exclaims, "Don't wanna live in the now; don't wanna know what I know."

Following the opening track with a similar pace is the single, "From the Hips," which includes one of the most memorable lyrics on the album. Kasher sings, "We're at our best when it's from our hips," and "I hate this damn enlightenment. We were better off as animals." Unlike most love or breakup songs, "From the Hips" questions our existence or beliefs, but isn't a declaration to God or human creation. Instead, it seems to be a song about a relationship gone astray, and what makes him an exceptional lyrical artist is the way Kasher injects his fervent passion into every word he places in the songs.

The next couple tracks, "I Couldn't Love You" and "Donkeys" provide a more tranquil ambience to the record and utilize the saxophone, an instrument that was also used on Cursive's last release.

The fifth song on the album, "Caveman," is an upbeat, keyboard-driven proclamation, and conveys a strong message of society's interpretations of how man is presumed to live.

Kasher asks, "Is modern technology the answer to our problems?" With lyrics such as "I want to unlearn what I've learned," he indicates how modern life might not be as comfortable as people assume. He continues, "I'm no happy family man. I'm no husband, ain't no dad. I'm a God-damn caveman."

Tracks six and seven, "We're Going To Hell" and "Mama, I'm Satan" also question religion, existence, and lifestyle. They provide for a great transition into the eighth track, "Let Me Up," which is about asking to be rescued.

The standout song on the album, which begins with a guitar-tubes effect, has the same slow tempo persistence as the two previous songs. Before the listener realizes that "Let Me Up" will explode with distorted bass and cymbal crashes, Kasher yelps, "Mama, the planet is a placenta. Pull the plug. Let the heavens rise above. Won't you let me up?" One of the most powerful songs released in 2009 thus far, "Let Me Up" is a cry for help and an admittance of not knowing all the answers.

The final two tracks, "Mama, I'm Swollen" and "What Have I Done?" follow a similar routine. However, what would a Cursive album be without the self-loathing and pessimistic attitude of Tim Kasher? On the album's title track he confesses, "I'm not an egg. I'm a runny yolk. I've no faith. I got no hope."

The final song, "What Have I done?," is a simple self-inquiry about what the author has accomplished and his feelings about it. The most vehement lyric comes midway through the song when Kasher says, "I spent the best years of my life waiting on the best years of my life."

Although "Mama, I'm Swollen" is barely forty minutes long, it never hesitates to provide the listener with catchy melodies and memorable lyrics. The main lyric reiterated numerous times on the last track asks, "What have I done?" If I had to say, Mr. Kasher, you have successfully created one of the best albums of the year.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

LP / CD / MP3