Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


Burst and Bloom

07/18/2001 | Summer Salts | | Album Review
In what is certainly to become a much talked-about move, Cursive begin their latest EP with a bit of postmodern self-referential wordplay: "this unique approach to start an EP / intended to shock, create a mystique / a cheap strategy, a marketing scheme / building awareness for the next LP / they've got a good fan base / they've got integrity, they've got a DC sound, / Shudder To Think, Fugazi and Chapel Hill around the early '90s - / this is the latest from Saddle Creek." Any band (such as Cursive) that has been plugging away for several years, is certainly aware of their own songwriting formulas. So what exactly is a band to do when they're tricks are all used up? Well, you can invent new ones, build a comfortable career on the tricks you already know, or simply give up.
Since Cursive has already exhausted Step 3, having broken up and then reformed, they're now opting to dance between Steps 1 and 2. So what's the same? A penchant for loud / soft dynamics, pounding guitars that squelch out equal parts harmony and dissonance, that machine gun drum beat you swear you've heard before. Check out the lyrics at the top again...the whole formula is spelled out clearly. Thankfully we all understand that, without these things, Cursive wouldn't be Cursive at all. So, more importantly, what new tricks have they learned? Well, there's the welcome addition of a cello player, who weaves a steady thread of melody throughout Cursive's often chaotic songwriting style. Second guitarist Ted Stevens is still kind of new, but he adds such tasteful parts that I often forget Cursive ever had a different line-up. Finally, Cursive (with the guidance of Mike Mogis) push the studio to new extremes, from the digitized intro vocals of "Sink to the Beat" to wide variety of grating, yet elegant guitar tones to the brilliantly-placed interludes between songs (which are wedged into the space between tracks-a pretty cool trick). Cursive may understand exactly how they fit into the indie rock spectrum, but that hasn't kept them from creating another amazing batch of songs. "Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me" contains one of their most blistering outbursts of guitar fury, coupled by an almost pop chorus sing-a-long of "bop bop bop bop bop da da da." So maybe it's just a strategy, a marketing scheme meant to whet my appetite for the next full-length. Maybe, in the end, that's what indie rock is all about. Image, promotion, formula. Regardless, I'm buying...and so should you.

Plus: self-promotional hype
Minus: Saddle Creek have the hugest promo stickers I've ever seen...smack dab on the back of the case
Burst and Bloom

Burst and Bloom

LP / CD / MP3