Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


I Am Gemini

Author: Dorian S. Ham
02/27/2012 | | | Record Review
The idea of the concept album is enough to invoke involuntary wincing. At this point, it's a well-established practice, but frankly, not every band has it in them. It can quickly devolve into an overwrought, over-thought mess. On the flipside, it can be so underdeveloped that it just sits there like wilted iceberg lettuce. There's a very narrow sweet spot that bands have to hit, so there was the potential for disaster when Cursive announced that its seventh album, I Am Gemini, would be a concept record about twin brothers who were separated at birth, Cassius and Pollock, and the question of whether they are split between good and evil or if they are two parts of one whole. At the very least, it seems ripe enough for missteps to necessitate the need for a strong dramaturge.

All things considered, if any band could navigate the potential minefield, it would Cursive. The band, as led by lead singer and lyricist Tim Kaiser, has always had a toe in the concept pool. But for this record Kaiser mapped out the entire story, wrote the songs in sequence and then took the extra step to use the liner notes as a way to present the lyrics as a script complete with stage directions. There was no half-assing with the project.

But all of the extra stuff doesn't matter if the music doesn't hold up its part of the bargain. Thankfully, it is a huge relief that I Am Gemini delivers. Musically, it's more aggressive than the band's last record, Mama, I'm Swollen. The guitars are appropriately tense and mathematical, with a level of gleeful attack from the rhythm section. It rocks, but it's not full-throttle all the time. Cursive knows when to ease back, sometime going more moody or even a touch poppy. The narrative is a bit more abstract if you're navigating the record sans lyric sheet, but within individual songs, Kaiser has a knack for evocative turns of phrase that stand up even if you don't know the story. I Am Gemini is the type of record that rewards, and even demands, repeated listening.
I Am Gemini

I Am Gemini

LP / CD / MP3