Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


I Am Gemini

Author: Warren Miller
02/24/2012 | | | Record Review
Cursive's Tim Kasher is no stranger to concept albums. In fact, a majority of the records he's released in the past twelve years have revolved around one central theme or another. Beginning with 2000's Domestica—on which Kasher depicted a romantic relationship in turmoil, presumably that of his own first marriage—the Cursive frontman has portrayed the musician as a martyr, who continually sabotages himself for the good of his craft, on 2003's The Ugly Organ and exposed the flaws and hypocrisies of an affluent small town in Middle America on 2006's Happy Hollow.

In his work with the Good Life and as an occasional solo artist, he has further covered his own divorce (2000's Novena on a Nocturn and 2002's Black Out); documented the highs and lows of a couple's year-long courtship (2004's Album of the Year); followed a stranger as he encounters numerous locals with baggage at a dive bar (2007's Help Wanted Nights); and satirized the institution of marriage (2010's The Game of Monogamy). Yet, despite his vast experience with concept albums, Cursive's latest release, I Am Gemini, marks Kasher's most ambitious record to date.

The narrative of I Am Gemini revolves around Cassius and Pollock, twin brothers—one good, one evil—separated at birth, who meet in a house that Cassius inherits following the death of the twins' parents. The siblings subsequently engage in a power struggle for the soul, while a chorus of angels and devils, twin sisters conjoined at the head and a younger version of Cassius all make appearances throughout the story. Cursive, meanwhile, provides the soundtrack, scoring the surreal tale with propulsive drumbeats, understated bass and interplaying guitars.

Kasher's lyrics on I Am Gemini serve as the characters' dialogue. However, without the comprehensive, 12-page booklet included with the album—which reads more like a script complete with stage directions than typical liner notes—listeners may find it complicated to follow the narrative. Additionally, since Kasher voices nearly the entire cast of characters himself, it's often difficult to differentiate between them unless their lines are sung using distinctive vocal inflictions, which the singer seldom does.

Overall, the album has its moments. The opening track, "This House Alive," effectively sets the tone for I Am Gemini both musically and thematically, demonstrating the use of dynamics that the band employs throughout the record and introducing the protagonist. "The Sun and Moon" features a catchy guitar riff reminiscent of "The Great Decay" from Cursive's 2001 Burst and Bloom EP as well as a terrific vocal melody. In addition to being one of the strongest tracks on the album musically, "The Sun and Moon" is also a highlight of the narrative, signaling Cassius and Pollock's first encounter with one another. Album-closer "Eulogy for No Name," with its mournful tone and outburst of emotion, is a hauntingly dramatic and fitting conclusion to I Am Gemini.

While Tim Kasher's ambition to create a fully realized concept album is admirable, the decision seems ill-advised. After all, we live in the modern age of iPod Shuffles, when music fans are increasingly shunning full-length albums in favor of individual tracks. As a result, the failure of I Am Gemini is partly due to the success of the album's cohesiveness. The advantages of Kasher's previous works, which tended to be looser conceptually, are that the individual tracks are able to succeed out of context. A majority of the tracks on I Am Gemini, on the other hand, cannot. However, the principal reason that I Am Gemini fails is that most of the songs on the record are average at best, and a collection of average songs makes for an average album.
I Am Gemini

I Am Gemini

LP / CD / MP3