Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Michael Swanger
12/10/2009 | Des Moines City View | www.dmcityview.com | Live Show Preview
Tim Kasher is growing older, but he has no intentions of becoming an old man. Cursive's 35-year-old singer-guitarist (unmarried and without children) subscribes to the familiar theory that rock music is a young man's game — whether you're young in years or young at heart. And you can hear that in the sounds and words of Cursive's latest Saddle Creek Records effort, "Mama, I'm Swollen," in which Kasher wrestles with life's miseries and mysteries and addresses the "Peter Pan Syndrome" of grown men.

"The 'Peter Pan Syndrome' is one of the themes of the record. It's a reluctance of maturity," said Kasher, via cell phone from the band's traveling van. "We're in our 30s now, and there's a lot of people I've grown up with who have kids who are teenagers. I just never went that route. There's a lot of societal pressure once you hit your 30s to shape up and fit the mold. But I'm glad not to. I think it's far more interesting what I'm doing."

What Kasher has been doing for the last 12 years since Cursive burst onto the scene with their 1997 debut album is consistently churn out heady, indie-rock albums heralded by critics and fans alike. After the underground success of their third album, 2000's "Cursive's Domestica," the band followed up with their 2003 breakthrough album, "The Ugly Organ," that earned them accolades from Rolling Stone and Alternative Press.

Following a brief hiatus, the band remerged with 2006's critically acclaimed "Happy Hollow." Midway through its early 2007 tour, original drummer Clint Schnase left the band to start a family (another victim of his 30s). After a short break, and feeling guilty about proceeding without Schnase, Kasher, bassist Matt Maginn and guitarist Ted Stevens started writing new material while adding new drummer Cornbread Compton to the mix.

"It's evolved into another band, for good or bad," Kasher said. "We miss Clint on drums; he was a good guy. He opted to bow out to start a family, and nobody could blame him because we're all that age. He'd gotten everything out of music he wanted, and he wanted to start a new chapter. So we took some time off and thought about it and decided to get back with a new drummer."

The results of the new union are the 10 original songs on "Mama, I'm Swollen" that question the human condition and social morality of adults. From the opening number "In The Now" and its chorus "I don't want to live in the now/I don't want to know what I know," to the references to Poe ("Going to Hell") and Pinocchio ("Donkey"), to the confessional closer "What Have I Done?" Cursive grapples with the moral quandary of being human, and adult in a literate, smart way.

"'In The Now' sticks out to me because it's so relatable," Kasher said. "It follows the idea that ignorance is bliss and as animals maybe our existence could have been a little more easier if we were a little more primitive."

Kasher purposefully paints musical pictures with broad strokes to appeal to a range of fans, including young adults, which Cursive continues to draw after having turned over a generation of fans now in their 30s.

"It's a challenge just to stay relevant in the times that you're alive," Kasher said. "We now recognize that you can keep turning on new listeners and by doing so you find a new way to stay relevant."

Though Kasher said he doesn't pander to young listeners, he finds them as easy to identify with them at age 35 as he did at age 23.

"I have a lot of respect for teenage listeners," he said. "I'd like to think they're a little more discriminate in their tastes in music… looking for something outside of the mainstream. They're the ones doing a lot of dictating of what's relevant now."

For Kasher, writing songs is a good way to stay young.

"You don't want to accept the oppressive dullness that hits all of us as we get older," he said. "We start to shrug more often and don't give a shit anymore. I love that I'm still writing music because it keeps the passion alive." CV
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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