Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


I Am Gemini

Author: Steven Wright
02/17/2012 | Emory Wheel | | Record Review
I Am Gemini, the seventh fulllength album from Cursive, trailblazes a path back to the group's heavier rock-based releases in the tradition of their breakthrough album, The Ugly Organ. This time, the Omaha quartet abandons the subdued tones and symphonic conceits of their previous release, Mama, I'm Swollen, in favor of a more intense sound that embellishes the striking sonic contrasts that the band is well-known for.

Years in the making, I Am Gemini is billed as a concept album that explores the relationship between the mortal Castor and the divine Pollux, Greek mythology's most famous set of twins. Cursive's latest emphasizes this duality not only musically, but lyrically as well.

A quick glance at the song titles ("The Cat and Mouse," "Twin Dragon") reveals the care that the band's vocalist and primary lyricist, Tim Kasher, takes in fleshing out the concept.

The lyrics of the songs themselves are rather sophisticated, with literary references ranging from residents of Greek Tartarus ("Double Dead") to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner ("Drunken Birds"). And make no mistake, Kasher is no slouch in the vocal department either.

His ghoulish tenor fills the nooks and crannies of every composition on the record with screaming, moaning, whispering, and just about every sound in between.

The album feels unsettling from the very first synthesized groans of the album opener, "This House Alive," and sustains that atmosphere for its entirety. Just as the listener may be adjusting to the latest tonal shift, the landscape of the song will change again, further disorienting the audience.

The sound itself on the album leans towards the extremes. A muted piano may suddenly turn into a wall of shrieking guitars at a moment's notice. By the end of the album, however, this strategy, as well as the static instrumentation, grows rather tired.

Though the instrumentation is fairly constant, the musical style of the album shifts abruptly about two-thirds through. Later tracks on the album feature more complex time signatures and odd chord choices, exhibiting the band's more musically exotic influences.

Latter-half tracks like the stop-start-stop "Wowowow" and the almost jazzy "The Cat and Mouse" vary up the album's well-worn sound to a certain extent, but as a whole, the record sounds pretty similar all the way through.

I Am Gemini's greatest asset is how well the songs fit together as a whole.

Lyrically, the songs seem to build on one another, with themes of confusion and family strife exuding from the entire production. Often, the lyrics take a dark, angry tone. On "Twin Dragon," haunting buried memories come back to life for Gemini's troubled family. As the song comes to a close, Kasher sings, "All of our sins are rising again like skeletons/ Someone, please, I must be seeing things."

According to press releases, this cohesive structure is no accident: Kasher wrote the songs in the order they appear in the album chronologically.

This gives the songs a real narrative punch that goes along with the heavier sound of the album, which makes the wall-of-sound finale, "Eulogy for No Name," that much more satisfying musically.

While the album may not be a triumph of mythological proportion, it certainly represents a brave new creative path forward for a band some called down-and-out, and that should be good enough to warrant a spot in anyone's library.
I Am Gemini

I Am Gemini

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