Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Aarik Danielsen
12/10/2009 | Columbia Tribune | | Live Show Preview
Charles Dickens has nothing on Tim Kasher. The revered English scribe penned the most famous paradox in popular literature "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" yet even he might not be able to keep up with the constant stream of contradictions Kasher lets fly in the song "From the Hips."

In just four minutes, the Cursive frontman sings, "I'm at my best when I'm at my worst / I'm at my worst when it's not rehearsed" and later, "I'm at my worst when I'm at my best / I'm at my best when I'm trying to look and think and talk and sing and read and write like all the rest." By track's end, Kasher concludes we're at our best when acting on animal impulse, at our worst when trying to be articulate. He might well be playing a character, but it's a bold statement from someone whose lyrical prowess is widely praised.

Enigmatic expressions are nothing new for Cursive, a band with a serious predilection for playing up dichotomies and embracing tensions. Since their debut in 1997, the Omaha, Neb. rockers have wed beautiful, evocative melodies and surprisingly ornate arrangements to a loose, unshackled punk aesthetic. Their work reflects the manner of their singer, a truly charismatic figure who, in song, often seems unsteady, on the verge of outburst.

Their latest, "Mama I'm Swollen" which includes "From the Hips" is another passionate exploration of emotion and beauty. A fervent band with a fervent following always inspires much analysis; talk surrounding the record focuses on ways it differs from successes like 2003's "The Ugly Organ." Slant magazine posited some fans might decry the record but affirmed it "features better songs, stronger playing, and Dylan-level lyrics, making it the band's most cohesive work to date." Pitchfork, however, said it "rarely strays far beyond the most palpable and predictable emo-punk."

It will be interesting to see where the band goes from here. After each record, there seems to be a period of questioning whether Cursive will continue to exist at all. For now, they continue on as, their Web site says, "a band that both your punk kid sister and English lit grad student best friend can call their own."
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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