Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Scott Mervis
04/30/2009 | Pittsburgh Post Gazette | | Live Show Preview
To most people, Cursive is what they use to sign their checks, and nothing else, but in indie-rock circles, it's the second biggest band on Saddle Creek Records and one whose emotionally heated records demand attention.

Although Cursive goes back to 1995 in the then-burgeoning scene of Omaha, which produced Bright Eyes, interest in the band peaked with the 2003 concept album "The Ugly Organ," and Cursive has been closely watched ever since by a scene that can be tough on its bands.

"I really don't mind," frontman Tim Kasher says of the scrutiny. "I would like to believe that is the result of high standards for doing this for a long time. I want people to expect a lot from us. A lot of people hate us as well; that's all good, too. Making people passionate one way or another is positive. For anybody who rails against us, there are people who are really for us."

* With: Man Man.
* Where: Diesel, South Side.
* When: 7 p.m. Tuesday.
* Tickets: $16 advance; $18 day of show; 1-800-745-3000.

It's a good thing for those people, because, as one can hear in the explosive sound of Cursive -- with shades of The Cure, chamber-pop and punk -- Kasher is prone to conflicted feelings. During the 2006 tour for "Happy Hollow," Cursive's original drummer quit, throwing the band into a slight tailspin. Kasher, already wrestling with the Peter Pan syndrome (one of the subjects of the new album), wondered if that was it for Cursive.

"Clint [Schnase] was a core member," he says. "We started the band with him. We had to spend some time deciding if Clint was indeed correct, if it was time to stop. We decided not to. It was a trying period in a sense, but the positive side of it is that changing up personnel is a way of changing up your sound as well."

The product of Cursive's decision to go on is "Mama, I'm Swollen," a sixth album of slightly tortured rock that deals in part with the idea of fading youth.

"It's not a real concrete theme," Kasher says. "It passes over a variety of topics, but there is a strand that we recognize of this character who wants to slip away from society but ultimately fails, realizing that these social constructs are unavoidable, at least, if you're going to do the right things."

"Mama, I'm Swollen" builds to an epic ending with the character in an El Paso hotel sitting down to write some type of memoir of his life and realizing there isn't much to tell. Kasher ends the record repeatedly wailing, "What have I done?!"

The singer-songwriter says the scenario is something he's "daydreamed about." With that ending and songs such as "We're Going to Hell" and "Mama, I'm Satan," it's not surprising that people have told Kasher the album is despairing.

"It's all kind of abstract for me as a writer," he says. "I'm not sure what it is I've written. You're not sure how people are going to relate to it, then you start getting all this feedback and end up with a consensus. The last few albums, the consensus is that they're fairly forlorn but have this optimism at the end. It gives people catharsis or some level of hope. This record is unique in that there's a fairly doomed ending. The feeling of catharsis is more or less coming to understanding that they've achieved nothing. 'Sullen' is one of my choice words for my overall feeling about it. Like I say, I think we thought it was fairly upbeat till the consensus came back to show us that people were fairly bummed out by the experience."

Musically, Cursive keeps its options open with an expansive sound that isn't too closely aligned with any one genre.

"It's freeing," Kasher says. "It's a challenge that we want to have. We really want to put out records that are unique. Especially now that our catalog is building, we want to be able to look back and think we didn't put out sequels, but a lot of different albums."

The band's versatility has sometimes put them in strange places -- like on an offbeat 2007 package tour with punk band Against Me! and metal headliner Mastodon.

"Opening for a metal band," Kasher says, "there was the fear of being booed off stage night after night. It really worked out great. It's funny, the first night there was this huge guy in the middle of the crowd, friendly, big smile on his face, flipping us off. His smile said, 'Hey, buddy, don't take it too hard. Understand that you're opening for Mastodon. I don't give a [expletive] about you.' I laughed about it. He wasn't antagonizing. That was the last time we got any heckling."
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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