Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Jeff Inman
06/25/2009 | Las Vegas City Life | www.lasvegascitylife.com | Live Show Preview
NORMALLY, this is how it would work: I'd take a description of Tim Kasher's screenplay, for which the Cursive singer left his hometown of Omaha, relocating to L.A. like so many hoping to hit it big. I'd make that into a metaphor for his band's music -- in this case, something along the lines of a life-changing epiphany wrapped up in some serious drama and small-town nostalgia. I'd cite the fact the band lost its longtime drummer Clint Schnase a couple years back, prompting Kasher to rethink his life -- the way he wrote, what he wrote, and how he separated everything neatly between two projects like some bi-polar OCD headcase off his meds. There would be mention of that tearful goodbye to the Midwest. There'd be adventure in the big city. There'd be a happy ending. And then I'd wrap it up in some nice little line that would tie everything in a bow and make the story feel complete. End of conventional story.

But for Kasher -- well, that would be old hat. And right now he's all about the new. "I'm feeling young-ish right now," he says with a laugh. "I'm trying something different with the screenplay. I just want to keep pushing, challenging the way I write."

Which, honestly, has never really been a problem for Kasher. Since forming the band way back in 1995, Kasher has always pushed the conventional limits of rock plotlines. He skewered midwestern suburbia on 2006's Happy Hollow with tales of lives as fake and manicured as a well-groomed lawn. He took down love and indie rock on 2003's brilliantly brutal The Ugly Organ. And he dismantled his own divorce on 2000's Domestica.

But that just wasn't enough. It's why he started his side project, The Good Life, back at the beginning of the millennium, giving him an outlet for his softer, even more personal tracks. And it's why he started writing his screenplay, giving him a chance to flesh out stories the way he always wanted.

"I was getting so frustrated with all these three- to four-minute bursts of storytelling, getting everything into meter, matching the music," he says. "It's a real challenge to tell a complete story. Albums like The Good Life's Album of the Year (2004) was the last record I could do before having to try something long-form. It was really freeing. This kind of writing is something totally different."

The odd thing, of course, is Kasher hasn't given up on those bursts. ("I think once you are something you remain something, and I'll always be a songwriter," he says.) Cursive just released its seventh full-length, Mama, I'm Swollen. It's a crossroads of sorts -- or maybe the moment before the epiphany. There are still the neat little stories: a perfect suburban husband revealing his inner asshole on the esoteric "Donkey," a relationship devolving on the otherwise bright "I Couldn't Love You." But the record plays like Kasher is letting his warring personalities battle it out for supremacy; crushing and distorted tracks like "In the Now" belly up to folky and rambling songs like "Caveman." The winner might determine the future of the band.

"I wanted to combine both songwriting styles into one record, lessen my own restrictions and see what happened," he says. "I do hear The Good Life on the record, though I do think I still held back a little bit so the record could be distinctly Cursive."

The ultimate winner of the two might be crowned on Cursive's next disc, if that ever happens. Who knows, Kasher might become Hollywood's next big scribe. He's pitching; someone might bite. And you might be seeing his flick soon. "It's about a guy who's car breaks down in a small town," says Kasher. "He has to spend some time with locals while his car being fixed. People's pasts start to unravel over a week. It's very drama, very stage play." And very Cursive.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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