Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Ron Wynn
04/22/2009 | Nashville City Paper | www.nashvillecitypaper.com | Live Show Preview
The Nebraska alternative rock ensemble Cursive was formed by two childhood best friends, Tim Kasher and Matt Maginn. Since their inception in the early 90s, the band has opened for such music powerhouses as The Cure and had Roling Stone, Alternative Press, Spin and Blender magazines give such albums as The Ugly Organ in 2003 and Happy Hollow in 2006 perfect ratings.

Their most recent project, Mama, I'm Swollen came out in March. It seems to mark a return to less elaborately produced, though no less lyrically clever material.

Kasher's mix of crunching growls, assertive yells and demonstrative straight vocals seems ideal for such songs as "In the Now," "From the Hips" and "What Have I Done," while fellow band members Maginn, Ted Stevens and other guest members that include a bass section and occasional instrumentalists provide leaner, more animated backing.

If Happy Hollow represented a more message-oriented production with its reflections and commentary on everything from politics to religion, there's less rant and more fun and exuberance on Mama, I'm Swollen, though there are also occasions where Kasher becomes more contemplative and less direct.

Still, this is arguably Cursive's finest work since The Ugly Organ, and one that Kasher feels is representative of new realities in the group's existence.

"For one thing, we now all live in different cities," Kasher said. "So, now instead of us hanging out all the time and constantly rehearsing or trying out things, we have to schedule things to kind of coincide with the touring schedule. We haven't really changed the working method in terms of songwriting. We've never been the kind of band that does a lot of jamming and working on a particular song. It's always been a thing where either I or Matt would work on the songs by ourselves, and then kind of bring them to the band."

With everyone so spread out and still trying to maintain the same schedule of travel and recording, it's brought a different urgency to the process, Kasher said.

"Now when we get together, it's an event, and we really try to have polished or at least almost finished songs so we can really get them together before we hit the road."

Bestfriends Kasher and Maginn joined former members Steve Pedersen and Clint Schnase in the move from Virginia to Omaha, Neb., and released the debut disc Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes in 1997. They temporarily disbanded the next year, then regrouped in 1999, with current member Ted Stevens joining them.

Since then, Cursive has at times been a four and five-piece unit, with cellist Gretta Cohn providing some additional musical options on their 2001 release Burst and Bloom. Cornbread Compton has been their most recent recruit.

Cursive also got plenty of exposure from a 2006 documentary Inside Cursive: The making of Happy Hollow, which aired extensively on Current TV, as well as the 2005 documentary Spend an Evening with Saddle Creek by Walters and Jason Kulbel that also contained a Cursive segment.

"I really can't tell you a specific reason beyond the friendship that Matt and I share why we've stayed together as a band when a lot of others that started when we did have disappeared," Kasher said. "It's not like we didn't try to break up ourselves at different times. But I guess we've just hung in there because we really do enjoy playing music, and have been fortunate enough to keep on playing and recording and having enough people enjoy it to keep us inspired."
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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