Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Steven D. Shirley
04/24/2009 | Memphis Daily Helmsman | www.dailyhelmsman.com | Live Show Preview
Cursive is a band that seems to stand alone, a musical oddity to say the least. Forming in Omaha, Nebraska in 1995, this indie-rock, post hardcore group was the brainchild of lead singer Tim Kasher.

They released their sixth and newest album, Mama, I'm Swollen, March 1 for digital download and on March 10 through record label Saddle Creek. The group began writing songs for the album in August of 2007 and had composed 23 songs in all, whittling the album down to 10 final tracks.

Their earlier album, The Ugly Organ, received rave reviews for its songs' emotional and coarse qualities.

For The Ugly Organ, Cursive featured organist Gretta Cohn. With her departure in 2005, Cursive replaced the power of the organ with a section of brass horns. Other changes made for Mama, I'm Swollen include new drummer Cornbread Compton, former-Engine Down drummer. He replaces Clint Schnase.

Compton brings tribal sounds to several songs, including the title track, "Mama, I'm Swollen."

Kasher described the theme of the album as man's "struggle with existence."

At the first listen of these Midwestern indie-rockers, you hear the band's varied sound.

A track may begin as an emotional piano-driven piece that moves into the strained singing of frontman Kasher. All the while, horns blare and heavy guitar riffs play at an ever-quickening pace.

Some songs build up to a great crescendo before the band drops to more mellow strains.

In the new album, Cursive's sound has matured. Notable tracks include "From the Hips" and "Caveman," the first of which echoes the biographical qualities of The Ugly Organ. Kasher delivers precisely what long-time Cursive fans would desire - a biting criticism of modern life and an antagonizing search for redemption.

The veracity of Cursive's lyrics is unavoidable. But Kasher said his lyrics don't trump any other part of the song.

"Every chord and beat is equally as important as a lyric," he said. "They're inseparable."

Easily described as controlled chaos, Mama, I'm Swollen, leaves the listener with the sense that Cursive understands both the human psyche and the complexity to which indie-rock strives.

But Cursive's sound does not provide an easy listening atmosphere, which other indie or alternative bands, such as The Decemberists, The Shins or Wilco, may exude. Rather, this quartet's offering contains a darker more virulent resonance that haunts and excites.

So give Mama, I'm Swollen a listen, and then listen to it again. It can takes more time to get in the music of Mama, I'm Swollen than many other records currently on the market.

Yet what one finds is a worthwhile album that speaks to a universal audience.

If this has piqued your interest, Cursive will be playing at the Hi-Tone Cafe tomorrow. The show is for all ages with general admission tickets costing $14.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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