Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


Burst and Bloom

Author: Tim McMahan
07/25/2001 | | | Album Review
Burst and Bloom takes off where the catchy numbers on last year's epic, Domestica, left off. Taken as a whole, that album was an emotional peep show into the open wound that was lead singer Tim Kasher's dismal, failed marriage. Its confessional concept was thoroughly engaging, but taken track by track only three songs would have made it onto one of my personal mix tapes. Not this time -- almost every song on the new EP stands
on its own, drum-battered feet.

On the opener, "Sink to the Beat," Kasher has fun with those who consistently peg Cursive's "DC sound," as "Shudder To Think, Fugazi and Chapel Hill around the early '90s." The self-description is more of a confession or acknowledgment than a jab. Those elements are apparent, but not overpowering. Instead, Cursive's snarling, angular sound, anchored by a solid rhythm section, continues to broaden, thanks in part to the addition of cellist Gretta Cohn, whose at-once-subtle then-hammering style is all over the place. At more serious moments, such as "Tall Tales, Telltales," Cohn's cello adds a sort of "Kasmir"-ish drama to the counter-melody. While on "Fairy Tales Tell Tales" (do I sense a trend in the song titles?), Cohn can slide under the melody at the quietest moments, intertwining with Matt Maginn's soulful bass, then just as subtly rise above the power chord melee.

Lyrically, Kasher's confessional side outstrips his philosophical one. It was the searing glance into his personal life that made Domestica so powerful. Whereas on the pouncy "Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me" with the line "Your navel is yearning for an extension - a ghost limb / It can't detach from mother's grasp" Kasher is reaching for a relevant metaphor and retrieving handfuls of warmed-over platitudes.

Not so on the rest of the EP. "Fairy Tales Tell Tales" -- the CD's high-water mark -- reads like a Domestica outtake, with lines like "Let's pretend we're not needy / Let's pretend our hearts still beat / Let's pretend we fall in love tonight / Clumsy enough to fall for anything." This is the stuff that boils over during the late, lonely hours. Kasher draws a character still healing months after a traumatic break-up, who realizes he's losing hope of ever being happy again, singing 'Who am I if I'm alone? I hardly exist at all'. Meanwhile, "The Great Decay" is the morning after, bleached in a reality of bitter resentment toward a world he both despises and ultimately accepts.

I don't know if its producer Mike Mogis' experience perfecting synths for The Faint CDs or Kasher's hold-over concepts from his other project, The Good Life, but there's a risk that more electronic drums will slide into Cursive CDs. That would be a shame. The 30-second electronic drum-driven epilogue on "Mothership..." for example, is a distracting, self-indulgent temper tantrum that adds nothing to the song. This flirtation with electronics only underscores that it is Clint Schnase who makes this train go. One of my favorite drummers, Schase's stickwork is thunderous and deft and always, always hypnotic.

Clocking in at over 21 minutes, Burst and Bloom has more depth and intensity than your typical commercial double album these days, and is a promising prelude to the band's upcoming full-length.
Burst and Bloom

Burst and Bloom

LP / CD / MP3