Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Erik Adams
11/25/2009 | Onion Austin AV Club | www.avclub.com | Feature
Since 2000's Domestica, Omaha-based Cursive has excelled at marrying its fractured song structures and jagged guitars (the edges of which were sanded away on this year's more straightforward Mama, I'm Swollen) to some of the most fascinating lyrical characters in post-punk. But while that record's "Sweetie" and "Pretty Baby" might make good, heart-rending company for 32 minutes, they're not the type you'd want to, say, spend a major holiday like Thanksgiving with. In the interest of preserving your fine China and your grandmother's delicate ears, Tim Kasher and company will keep their bruised-and-battered creations confined to the Mohawk this weekend. The fact that none of the following will end up on our doorsteps with a black eye and an already-opened can of cranberry sauce is something we should all be thankful for.

The character: The great (failed) artist of "What Have I Done?"

Why he'd make a bad guest: Like many of the people Kasher creates in song, the narrator of "What Have I Done" is a personification of his crisis du jour: The final song of Mama, I'm Swollen channels the songwriter's difficulty with breaking into the film industry. Kasher may have finally sold his script, Help Wanted Nights, but the guy in this song is perpetually chasing white whales and coming up empty—and he's all too happy to tell you about it

What he'd bring: Leftover kung pao chicken, and—what's this? An unfinished manuscript that you should totally read after the game is over? He'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

The character: A jilted lover with a very keen interest in his ex and her daughter, named "Sierra."

Why he'd make a bad guest: You can't sit him next to the kids' table, because he'll just spend the meal asking the little ones if they know anything about Sierra. (Or, more importantly, if they ever see Sierra's mom out for a jog.) And you probably won't be able to take him to the bar the night before Thanksgiving—he's either sitting on that one park bench with the clear view of the apartment complex, or hatching a scheme to convince you to skip the drinking to sit there with him.

What he'd bring: A bottle of whiskey, because if she's going to drink when she thinks about him, he might as well be drinking 'round the clock.

The characters: Lucy, her meddling father, and their brood of "bigots and fanatics," introduced in "Flag And Family."

Why they'd make bad guests: In the Cursive universe, everybody's always stabbing someone else in the back—and, unfortunately, most of those stabbin' hands belong to women. At least in "Flag And Family" (one of three Happy Hollow songs penned by guitarist Ted Stevens), the woman doing the protagonist wrong is acting under the orders of her horrifying family. Expect dinner conversation peppered with epithets directed at various liberal figures that don't really matter anymore (it's like they're stuck in the years 2004-2006) and suggestions that you make something of yourself—for instance, a terrorist-killing crusader for freedom, Christianity, and cheap oil. And Lucy, she's laughing along and agreeing with them.

What they'd bring: A cake shaped like an Army recruitment form. And if you don't eat it (and sign the actual form they also brought), the terrorists win.

The character: Mr. or Ms. "Mom Doesn't Call Everyday Anymore," who cry out from within "Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me?"

Why they'd make bad guests: They're living on their own for the first time, and boy are they ever needy. To make matters worse, they've just about finished their first psychology course at college, and they're stuck in a Freudian loop of blaming every little thing that goes wrong—overcooked casserole, disagreements over the proper basting technique, a runaway balloon in the Macy's parade—on their mothers. Good thing they don't know the proper definition of schizophrenia yet, or they'd be self-diagnosing their tendency to snap from straightforward postulating to nonsensical bursts of noise.

What they'd bring: A gallon of whole milk, which they insist on drinking directly from the bottle.

The character: Caroline of "May Flowers," a mopey girl with an undisclosed "ailment."

Why she'd make a bad guest: She's just going to ruin everyone's good time, isn't she? Probably just keep to herself mostly, save for the stray comment about the injustices of factory farming or some sort of malcontent jibber-jabber. Why doesn't her mother figure out what's wrong with that girl? Why doesn't she just go play basketball with her brother? Oh. That changes things. Never mind.

What she'd bring: Nothing, really. She shouldn't have to bother. And whatever you do, don't sit her next to her brother.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

LP / CD / MP3