Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: S.A. Hughes
04/27/2009 | American University Eagle | www.theeagleonline.com | Live Show Preview
If you're looking for a diversion from finals week of the rock 'n' roll persuasion, the May 3 Cursive show at Black Cat may be the remedy for your exam blues.

Cursive will be touring throughout most of summer 2009 supporting their new album "Mama, I'm Swollen," which was released in March by Saddle Creek Records. The hometown label of lead singer Tim Kasher was also founded in part by Bright Eyes musician Conor Oberst.

Formed in 1995, Cursive released two albums before they found success in 2000 with the concept album "Domestica" and critical respect for 2003's "The Ugly Organ."

The new record's change in instrumentation presents a tone different from past albums, said Ted Stevens, the band's long-time guitarist and vocalist.

"We stopped using this formulaic two guitars, bass, drums and a few production tricks [used] on 'Domestica,'" Stevens said in an interview with The Eagle. "We've kind of gone from that model as a band."

These changes occurred in the studio, he said.

"[They resulted from] the band's willingness to incorporate other instruments, not only the cello and the horns but guitars as well - not using such hard rock guitars all the time," he said.

"Mama, I'm Swollen" was written with a multi-instrumentalist/arranger, making this the first time Cursive has written and recorded with a piano player present in the studio. These changes, placed alongside changes in Kasher's style of writing, have prompted comparisons to "The Good Life," Kasher's softer sounding side project, Stevens said.

"Throughout all the early records, Tim wrote with guitar in rock riffs," he said. "In this record Tim's going back to a more formulaic folk or Americana kind of approach toward guitar playing."

Stevens said he believes that this helps to alter the dynamic of the album, as the album's new approach to chords is accented by instrument and guitar changes, creating a rounder sound.

Cursive's lineup has changed from album to album, with the departure of original member Steve Pedersen early on, as well as the more recent departure of cellist Gretta Cohn and drummer Clint Schnase. Joining Kasher and Stevens is Matt Maginn on bass. Cornbread Compton, Cursive's drummer on "Mama, I'm Swollen," no longer plays with the band.

These days, the members of Cursive are spread out across the country, with Stevens still in Omaha, Neb., Kasher in Los Angeles, and Maginn in Columbia, Mo. Changes in the studio and the demands of recreating an album live on stage, while still including their expansive back catalogue, makes for an impressive schedule. This evolution, on top of the band's dispersion to different areas, has not only changed their touring style but also matured the group.

"It's forced us to grow up and start thinking about getting to bed earlier so that we can get to shows on time and practicing harder because we're doing a lot of different things," Stevens said. "We try to get by living in different cities these days."

Still, the fundamentals of a tour, which Stevens described as "trying to coexist as a band, trying to make a deadline, dealing with illness and frustration, and people trying to live their lives on the telephone," are the same as they were in earlier days.

"The dynamic has really changed, but for the most part a tour is a tour," he said. "It's just easier now with iPhones."

Both new and old fans of Cursive should walk away from this tour satisfied.

"Our goal for this next tour is to have all the new stuff ready for action," Stevens said. "I bet we play 70 percent of the record every night." He added that the band tries to play a good sample of all their albums.

As for Cursive's live show, concertgoers should come prepared for a lively evening, according to Stevens.

"They should expect more energy and more variety maybe than we're known for," he said. "I think we're gonna have a lot of fun and just try to have a good time every night and make sure that everyone leaves the venue with a smile on your face."

Man Man will join Cursive for a handful of shows this summer. The Philadelphia-based band released their new record, "Rabbit Habits," in April. Stevens said he is excited to tour with the group.

"I hear that they're a really amazing live band," he said. "I'm looking forward to getting to know their music and their personalities, too."

Reward yourself for a semester well-done. Check out Cursive this Sunday, May 3 at Black Cat. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door.

You can reach this writer at thescene@theeagleonline.com.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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