Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Steve McElwee
05/01/2009 | Centre Daily Times | | Live Show Preview
At this stage of their career, Cursive can be considered among the elder statesmen of the indie rock and post-hardcore universe. Having been together since 1995, these guys have influenced a slew of the far less superior emo bands that have sprung up since the turn of the century. The band's latest release, "Mama, I'm Swollen," continues to showcase the talents that these kids from Omaha, Neb., have been doing for the past 14 years.

There is a lot of melancholy going on throughout this record, which is great because it's what Cursive does best. The musicians are able to craft catchy, upbeat and up-tempo songs, while vocalist Tim Kasher lets the listener know that it isn't all sunshine and rainbows on his end. It is this structure that makes "Mama, I'm Swollen" so enjoyable and one of the better records of 2009.

Another treat the album provides is the diversity of instruments and stylings throughout its 10 tracks. Cursive easily could have churned out another record and vanished into the pitfalls of indie/emo cliché, but the band completely avoids even the slightest sense of that musical movement ever happening. The musicians incorporate horns and other brass instruments to give the record a stronger and more mature sound than the majority of their mainstream counterparts.

"I Couldn't Love You" features these wind instruments in full force. The chorus of this song is what a first-time Cursive listener should pop into their stereo. Kasher's emotions are spilling from the barrel of his throat and provide for pure audio bliss; it is astonishing what they accomplish without going completely overboard.

On "From the Hips," Kasher claims that he "don't want to mumble what I'm trying to say" while he attempts to dislodge a couple of marbles from his mouth. I get and appreciate the irony in this instance; it shows that although the guys from Cursive can take themselves a little bit too seriously at times, they are also capable of self-deprecation and, like a good comic, know when to implement it.

It is this track that has Kasher sounding like the forgotten child of The Strokes' Julian Casablancas and Saves the Day's Chris Conley — a pretty good, if not great, compliment.

What I like most about Cursive's latest effort is that the band is not afraid to mix things up and tread in a direction different than many of its mainstream contemporaries would ever dare. Cursive doesn't bombard you with ear-piercing distorted guitars and screechy or whiny vocals throughout the album.

Take a track such as "Caveman" for example. It's got a great backbeat courtesy of a perfectly tuned acoustic guitar, a great melody to go along with the chorus and, if I'm not mistaken, I think I even heard an organ somewhere in there. The percussion, the high hat especially, provide a workman-like presence and never falters or trips up the song.

It can get a bit experimental at times, what with the vocal effects and all, but he isn't going full-blown Kanye West on everyone with an Auto-Tune device.

Cursive has been carrying the torch of the indie scene for close to a decade and a half and shouldn't be burdened with having to act as the voice of a genre. It would be like having Robert DeNiro doing PSAs for an online acting class; the band is simply too good for that.

Sure, emo, the style of music that the band helped to create, is easy to criticize, but Cursive belongs in the legend file along with Sunny Day Real Estate and Far. And if they weren't already tossed into that bin, "Mama, I'm Swollen" just solidified their case for why they should be.

Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

LP / CD / MP3