Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Jim Abbott
04/30/2009 | Orlando Sentinal | www.orlandosentinel.com | Live Show Preview
There's a tendency toward pretty on Cursive's Mama, I'm Swollen, but the band still knows how to rock on stage.

In the first performance of a sold-out two-night stand on Wednesday at the Social, frontman Tim Kasher and his band bassist Matt Maginn, guitarist Ted Stevens, drummer Cully Symington and trumpeter-keyboardist Patrick Newbery thrashed away with an abandon that heightened the passion of Kasher's dense, emotionally charged wordplay.

Powered by corrosive guitar riffs, the opening "Butcher the Song" off 2003's The Ugly Organ lurched along against an off-balance cadence that elevated the angst.

Kasher and the band specialize in dispensing well-timed dissonance and his singing sounds all the more desperate against it.

Yet at the same time, the band is capable of rousing, almost joyful moments, such as the hard-charging take on "I Couldn't Love You," one of several cuts off the new album. Although the band eventually showed its more delicate side, it pounded away for a while to make the contrast more effective.

Opening act Man Man, on the other hand, was raucous in a completely different way. That 5-piece unit out of Philadelphia was powered by keyboards and drums, mostly, augmented by a dash of guitar and lots of unusual instruments: marimba, accordion, baritone sax and a shiny canister that sounded like a big trash can when it was pounded with a drumstick.

There was a lot of rhythmic pounding in Man Man's 45-minute set, along with plenty of rowdy vocals. Stylistically, it all melded into something that touched against gut-bucket blues, New Orleans funeral dirges and weird excursions that sounded as if someone had tipped over a circus calliope and pushed it down a hill.

At times, it was a little out there, but it was exhilarating.

So was Cursive, which showed its own range in the inspired transition between the hard-charging "Rise Up! Rise Up!" and the hymn-like "What Have I Done?"

The latter was an excellent capper for the main set. It eased the band into an encore that built from prettier songs to "From the Hips" and "A Gentleman Caller," another glimpse of Cursive's muscle.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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